Public Lands bill easily passes the U.S. Senate

The critical vote was 66-12-

The Caucus. New York Times blog. On a Sunday, the Senate Votes Yes on a Lands Bill. By Carl Hulse.

Here is the AP story. Senate boosts wilderness protection across US. By Mathew Daly.

The bill now goes to the House where there should be no challenge unless the bill gets an open rule from the House Rules Committee. An open rule permits amendments. The Rules Committee almost always follows the will of the Speaker. It is “her committee,” so to speak.

– – – – – –

Reaction is coming in.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Cheers. SUWA Statement on Inclusion of Vastly Improved Washington County Public Lands Legislation in Senate Omnibus Lands Package

Federal wilderness protection for California land moves forward. By Richard Simon. LA Times

Senate votes to increase protections for land in Oregon and nationwide. By Charles Pope, The Oregonian


  1. jdubya Avatar

    The two senators from Oklahoma have their heads so far up their backsides that they could be from Utah instead. Glad to see this advanced so easily.

  2. JB Avatar

    “Coburn and several other Republicans complained that bill was loaded with pet projects and prevented development of oil and gas on federal lands, which they said would deepen the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

    Republicans made the bed they now find themselves in by constantly pushing for drilling in our parks, forests, and public lands. Wilderness designation pretty much ensures that these lands will not go under the knife of the oil & gas and mining industries.

  3. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native

    Which party are the senators from Wyoming who wrote the Wyoming Range and Snake River parts of this Omnibus bill from?

    Wyo native I corrected this and deleted your other post. RM

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wyo Native,

    I think you know they are both Republicans.

    I speculate, that the opponents of this bill were not Republicans per se, but southern Republicans, who have no interest in the public lands.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Wyo Native

    Actually, it was people from western Wyoming, mostly hunters, anglers, and boaters, who wrote the Wyoming Range and Snake River portions of the bill. It was a grass roots bill. It was picked up by Republican Senator Craig Thomas, who got moderate in his old age thinking about his legacy. After he died, it took considerable pressure from real people to convince John Barrasso, who was appointed to fill Thomas’ empty seat as a Republican, to continue to carry Thomas’ bill.

    Quite frankly, if the Wyo Range/Snake River language hadn’t had strong grass roots support and Thomas’ original imprimatur, it would have gone nowhere. So let’s not give more credit to Wyoming Republicans than is due.

    For example, the story in the Casper Star-Tribune on the Senate vote, at,

    indicates that our new REPUBLICAN Representative, Cynthia Lummis, opposes the WyoRange/Snake River portions of the bill and the bill as whole. It looks like we’ve got another “Babs” Cubin carrying water for the energy industry.


  6. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native


    Yes, of course I knew they were Republicans, LOL
    Barrasso and Enzi are responsible for protecting some of the most pristine public land in Wyoming. But of course they will get little if any recognition from folks on this blog because they have a “R” after their name.

  7. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native

    Robert Hoskins,

    I fully understand the history of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act before and after Barrasso’s appointment in June 2007.

    But as a member of Sportsmen for the Wyoming Range, I do not recall any resistance from him after his appointment to continue Thomas’ work regarding the Wyoming Range. In fact e-mails I sent him in his first week in office regarding the continued pursuit of this legislation were returned with him saying he fully supported protecting the Wyoming Range.

    As for Lummis, I knew her position before the election, but I also knew Trauner only supported the Wyoming Range depending what crowd he was speaking in front of. His radio ads he ran on Rock Springs radio stations had him stating he could not support the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well whatever,

    While this is not law yet, it looks like the Wyoming Range will be saved from drilling and production. It is such a pretty place and I’ve always seen a lot of elk there.

    Does the bill include any of the Salt River or Commissary Ridge?
    – – – – – –
    I’m sure a lot of folks on this blog are feeling bad about the Owyhee Canyonlands bill, which may look good to people who don’t know that country or have not had personal “fun” with the local landed gentry, BLM and county officials.

  9. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native


    Yes, the Salt River, and Commissary Ridge are included included in this bill!

    Here is a map of the lands that would be protected if the House passes the legislation.

  10. kt Avatar

    Well the Owyhee Initiative part shows why a tri-sate Monument is desperately needed. The OI releases 200,000 acres of WSAs critical to sage-grouse, It also releases the wildest juniper canyon country around – in the Pole Creek watershed on the Oregon border. Plus all the assaults on what really is Wilderness – the awful Bush Healthy Forest like Veg manipulation language, the appalling military language, and expressly stating no water right for wilderness — in the desert! It is the best argument yet for why real landscape-level protection is needed in the Owyhee. As Brian said yesterday: More PEW/CAW WINO .

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wyo Native,



    Yes, there needs to be cooperation among conservationists in all 3 states. Some people and groups are going to be satisfied with the protection of the 500,000 scattered acres of deep canyons; but it is such a small part of the area.

    I don’t know the conservation history of why Nevada and Oregon groups did not get involved in this.

    Note to everyone:
    Omnibus bills are almost always the cause of mixed feelings, and they are designed to make it so hardly anyone is accountable for their vote on them.

  12. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native

    Both Senators from the following Western States voted for this bill.

    New Mexico

  13. Mike Avatar

    I’m not too sure on the Idaho part but the restof this bill is progress IMHO. Glad to see some new wilderness.

  14. jburnham Avatar

    There is plenty to be happy about in this bill. But no changes for Montana. Personally I’d like to see NREPA back on the table.

  15. JB Avatar

    Wyo Native:

    Is your hypothesis then, that Republicans–especially those who held office the last 8 years–have been good stewards of your public lands? I’m happy to give credit to individuals for supporting this bill, wilderness protection, or public lands in general–but the Republicans (as a party) haven’t wanted anything to do with the environment since Reagan.

  16. Salle Avatar

    I heard on the news, this morning, that there was a whopping 2 million acres in 14 states that received wilderness designations. That’s not a lot of property considering that it is spread over that many states. Yellowstone NP is all of 2.2 million acres, so how is this a major milestone other than the fact that the WORD wilderness has actually seen the light of day in the halls of Congress after how many years???

    I’m not impressed, really, although I do recognize that it is a “baby step” in a more positive direction on the political front.

  17. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native


    No, I do not have that hypothesis at all. I fully understand the overall position of “Southern Republicans” especially concerning Wyoming. But I also fully understand the positions of the Democratic party since Reagan on Wyoming lands. And to be quite frank it is just as bad if not worse than the Republicans positions, with the only difference being the Republicans are open about their position, while the Democrats are more two faced.

    The simple fact of the matter is if it were not for the Clinton administration, we would not have Coal Bed Methane, the Jonah Field, or the Pinedale Anticline.

    During the Clinton administration, Black Butte Coal Company, Bridger Coal, P&M Coal, Solvay Minerals, FMC, General Chemical, OCI Chemicals, Questar, Wexpro, and McMurray Oil were all allowed to either expand their existing aussult on public lands, and this is only in southwestern Wyoming.

    Our next big battle is Wind Farms. Uinta County in Southwest Wyoming is on track by the end of this year, to loose more Public land to Wind Energy due to projects that are less than a couple years in the making, than all the land Natural Gas wells have taken in the last 20 years.

  18. JimT Avatar

    Except to use it to enhance bank accounts…I am hoping to find a site that breaks out the bill by state…

  19. Salle Avatar

    Until then,

    this web site: will have the text when it becomes available. Perhaps the state-by-state break down will be there too.

  20. kt Avatar

    Ralph- The reason other states were not involved is that the “collaborative” process was designed to exlcude all but the Invitees and those who would go along with whatever the livestock industry wanted. No way did the cowboys and Crapo want Oregon there – both ONDA and the Sierra Club in Oregon have some spine – unlike here in Idaho, plus real Democratic Congressional Reps. They wanted patsies.

    This started out with Owyhee County issing a Press release saying Jon Marvel and his ilk were NOT invited. So much for “collaboration” – other than Vichy style. If Oregon HAD been involved, you can bet the wildest country out there – Pole Creek Breaks mazes, Middle Fork Owyhee WSAs would not be being “released” – i.e stripped of WSA status.

    JBurnham – Unfortunately, the next step in the PEW CAW Wilderness product in Idaho will be the Boulder-White Clouds Bill revived, and look for it to lop off and discard big chunks of land proposed for protection in NREPA. Like 80,000 acres of WSAs including lands grazed by a Hewlett heiress that is blind to cattle damage.

    The real problem here is these Bills (at least in Idaho and Nevada) have become Products pumped out by the PEW CAW Wilderness machine – and they all do significant harm to important areas of lands – the OI by releasing 200,000 acres of WSAs. Why in the world, now having a solid Democratic Congress, would any “conservationist” go along with release of 300 square miles of WSAs in the Owyhee? It is time to end these quid pro quo Bills that also all chip away at the Wilderness Act in one way or the other (like the Owyhee anything goes military, HFI-type and now wilderness water right language). Call a halt to them. Demand Wilderness Bills that designate real wilderness again – not more WINO Bills. Do not release WSAs (i.e roadless lands to development). This is just inexcusable, given all the roadless BLM lands that have been lost under Bush …

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for the comments and explanation.

    Could you explain some of your acronyms? There are really a lot of them.

  22. JB Avatar

    Wyo Native: You’ll get no argument from me about Clinton; though, as others on this site are fond of pointing out, GENERALLY SPEAKING Western Republicans have been as bad for the environment and public land as anyone. Need I bring up our current–at least for 8 more days–vice president?

    Still, the reasons Democrats appear wishy-washy on environmental issues is because while they are generally part of the platform for the party, traditionally only a few of us decide our votes primarily on environmental matters. Thus, there isn’t a big reward for individual politicians for picking fights on the environment. More importantly, since the Republican party is blatantly anti-environment (who do all those so-called “property-rights advocates vote for?) and has typically controlled AT LEAST one branch of the government, the Dems have had little success on environmental issues in recent years.

    I wish you all the luck in the world getting Republicans to be responsive to environmental issues (truly), but let’s be frank shall we? You can’t make sh*t shine; and the Republican record on the environment and public lands is exactly that.

  23. JimT Avatar

    Thanks, Salle. Thomas does have the text. I am hoping as well to find a site that has a breakdown of the major provisions…maybe EDF, NRDC will put something out later when the House version is passed.

  24. kt Avatar

    Sorry, I was hurrying as usual!

    WSA – This is Wilderness Study Area. These were established after the passage of FLPMA (gulp) another acronym – but basically BLM’s Organic Act passed in 1976. This is the law that says BLM lands have important values, and can be used for things other than cows, open pit mines and oil wells. After a process of fierce wrangling where BLM discarded many suitable areas for consideration as potential Wilderness, the lands where BLM could find no further excuse to say they did not meet wilderness-quality criteria became WSAs. In each Western State, this was less than 10% of BLM land acreage in each state.

    These WSAs have existed since the late 70s-early 80s, and had been viewed by Wilderness activists as sacrosanct – that they just should not be released under any circumstance. Enter PEW CAW big, big bucks to fund these quid pro quo Wilderness deals and suddenly the same folks (like The Wilderness Society in Idaho) that had opposed release of WSAs and who has believed that all of the WSA lads were th minimum bottom lone in any wilderness deal – now began to embrace release of WSAs.

    Release means they go back to being managed as regular BLM lands. For example, if this was Forest land it could be logged, roaded, whatever. In BLM terms once the WSAs are released the lands can now be mined, be bulldozed for cow projects, have expanded roading, you name it. The Owyhee Initiative Bill does this to 300 square miles of WSAs! In Forest terms this is like saying: Full steam ahead You can now Log the old growth in what had been a Roadless area.

    The Wilderness “protection” for lands that would be designated Wilderness under the Owyhee Initiative language is actually LESS restrictive than current management under BLM’s Interim Management Policy for WSAs. Example: the language about being able to do just about any manipulation thing to deal with fire, insects, etc. Isn’t wilderness supposed to be a wild place untrammeed by Man? Not manipulated at the whim of the BLM Area manager?

    The shameful thing is that conservation groups in Utah or Oregon would never stand for release of such large and important WSA acreage as was just done in the Owyhee. Contrast this to Idaho, where all we heard was the pathetic bleat: “It’s been so long since we got any Wilderness, we need to get — SOMETHING”. No bottom line.

    ONDA is the Oregon Group Oregon Natural Desert Association. CAW is Campaign for America’s Wilderness – they are an arm of the PEW Charitable Trusts (Sun Oil Co. money originally). NREPA is the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. The Simpson White Ciouds Bill in its past form chopped off SNRA protection from some lands, released 80,000 acres of the “non-sexy” sagebrush wild land WSAs [sage grouse might disagree with that characterization], and otherwise assaulted lands that would be protected under NREPA which is a multi-state wild land protections Bill.

  25. jdubya Avatar

    Salle, you said: I heard on the news, this morning, that there was a whopping 2 million acres in 14 states that received wilderness designations. That’s not a lot of property considering that it is spread over that many states. Yellowstone NP is all of 2.2 million acres, so how is this a major milestone other than the fact that the WORD wilderness has actually seen the light of day in the halls of Congress after how many years???””

    That is the heart of what is wrong with the way the Senate, and to a lesser degree the house, do business. There has to be something in it for ME to get my vote. Why should Coburn, for example, support this bill? There is no land at issue in Oklahoma and the potential restrictions for oil and gas exploration that fuel Oklahoma companies are a negative. So to get Coburn’s vote the bill needs an earmark to build a new Cowboy Hall of Fame building (or some other piece of crap like that) in Oklahoma City. Senators think of themselves first, their state second, and the country third. Is this a republican only stance? Of course not, both parties play this game to the hilt and it needs to stop. Both Utah Senators voted for this bill ’cause there were land transfers and wilderness designations (along with outright land sales) in Utah that developers and wilderness advocates found adequate. If no Utah lands were at issue, my guess is they would have opposed it along with Coburn’s agenda.

  26. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for taking the time to explain this for those folks who may not have known.

    Others remain, like WINO (Wilderness in name only), meaning that while it may be part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the area does not really possess the attributes of wilderness described by the Wilderness Act. This is usually because of heavy livestock impacts.

    Grazing was grandfathered by the Wilderness Act of 1964 because it was necessary to in order to get the bill passed. In many areas that became designated Wilderness there was no grazing, so this didn’t matter. However, in the less forested areas, grazing often was and is intense. So while the area is roadless, the impacts of human activity (livestock grazing) actually dominate the area.

    While is was hoped that grazing in Wilderness Areas would go away, and has in a few cases, subsequent Wilderness bills often gave the livestock operators even more privileges inside the new Wilderness Area than the original law. This too was seen as a necessary compromise.

    Other cases of WINO often have to do with military operations in or directly above the area.

  27. kt Avatar

    Yes I forgot SNRA Sawtooth National Recreation Area. If removing lands from the SNRA designation remains part of the latest White Clouds Bill, it is likely more wolves could die, because there would be no grounds remaining for management emphasis on wildlife or other values. Ranchers would like that. Easier to do things like build new cell towers, powerlines, etc.

    You have to think 2, 3, 5 years out and envision what the WSA releases, removal of lands from the SNRA, etc. could mean to the landscape and places people care about. It is not a pretty picture. All of these PEW CAW Wilderness Products need to be examined to see 1) How Bill provisions diminish or cheapen the Wilderness Act, and 2) What developments lands get freed up for as a result of the complex quid pro quo Bills …

  28. Salle Avatar


    Thanks, but I already know that. I was being slightly sarcastic… though only slightly, I refer you to kt’s posts…


Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan