Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pro-Access Members of Congress Vote Down S.22

Who says writing letters and making phone calls don’t work? I believe the ever growing national grassroots movement against having condescending elements of Congress or overzealous bureaucrats trying to shove “dark-of-night” legislation or regulations down our throats was best evidenced today when Pro-access and pro-business Dems and Republicans voted NO on S.22.
See BRC March 11 Alert on S.22 Vote

The Senate Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (S.22) failed to get the 2/3 votes needed to pass under suspension. I don’t think this was a vote against common sense Wilderness bills such as the 2006 Boxer/Thompson Wilderness Bill for Northern California (HR 233). Rather it was a vote against a misguided bill that was anti-access and anti-job.

The BlueRibbon Coalition and House Members from both parties worked hard on HR233 to see that it was fair and balanced.

See article below:

House panel OKs land preserves
Wilderness measure includes Lost Coast area, adds sites for off-road motor sports.
Published Thursday, July 20, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Legislation that would add wilderness protection to more than 275,000 acres of federal land along California's North Coast cleared a key House committee Wednesday, a crucial step that virtually assures the bill will become law this year.

The measure by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, emerged from the House Resources Committee on a voice vote with the blessings of its California chairman, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, after the two lawmakers, working with California's two Democratic senators, negotiated furiously over the last few weeks to compromise.

The final deal lops about 25,000 acres of land, almost all of it from the Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte and Humboldt counties, from the original measure Thompson introduced in the House and that Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein twice moved through the Senate.

But the agreement also designates about 75,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in the Cow Mountain area of Mendocino County as a "recreational management area" for off-road vehicles and mountain bikes that was not part of the original bill.

The compromise was a last-minute addition to the House panel's agenda. It could come to the floor of the House as soon as next week. That would clear the way for passage by the Senate before Congress ends for the year in early October.

In introducing the compromise Wednesday, Pombo told his committee the changes make the bill "more broadly supportable." Thompson, meanwhile, said the changes don't damage his overall goal of giving the highest level of land protection to the North Coast's most spectacular wild spots.

As wilderness, the areas will be closed to all mechanized access except firefighting equipment. Some privately owned property also will remain accessible but only to the landowners.
Among the most spectacular areas are coastal lands in the King Range National Conservation Area along California's Lost Coast. Once open to logging and farming, the BLM said the King Range additions will become the "crown jewel" of its wilderness inventory.

The original bill also called for wilderness protection for about 30,000 acres in the Cache Creek area in Lake County, a popular whitewater rafting area; a 50,000-acre expansion of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness in the Mendocino National Forest; 48,000 acres of additions to Siskiyou National Forest wilderness; and 53,000 acres in the proposed Yuki Wilderness Area of the Mendocino National Forest. Other rivers would be protected under national scenic river designations.

Those areas remain in the bill, but exact acreages won't be known until maps are redrawn to reflect the compromise.

Wilderness has been controversial in Del Norte County, and designations there were slashed by 10,000 acres, to about 28,000 acres. Another 15,000 acres around Mad River Buttes, the Underwood area by the Trinity River and Orleans Mountain in the forest in Humboldt County were also dropped.

Still, Jon Owen, Washington representative for the Campaign for America's Wilderness, hailed the compromise. ""This demonstrates that wilderness truly is America's common ground," he said.

The deal also drew begrudging nods from some of the fiercest opponents of wilderness designations. "I think Representative Pombo did his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," said Don Amador, spokesman for the Blue Ribbon Coalition of off-road enthusiasts. Amador said he was disappointed that the Black Sands Beach area of the King Range north of Shelter Cove was not reopened to public access, as his group had sought. But he took solace in the recreational management area for off-road vehicles in Mendocino County.

Boxer and Feinstein said they, too, were pleased with the deal, which has been six years in the making. "I am more optimistic than ever that we will soon see this bill signed into law," Boxer said.
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Sure there were compromises, but I still feel today that having a vigorous debate between the various stakeholders did turn HR 233 …”into a silk purse.”

Wilderness bills are hard work and I think those politicians who stifle debate and try and cram such proposals down the throats of access minded stakeholders do themselves and their movement a great disservice.

The ongoing battle for responsible access to public lands is sure to continue, but let’s hope that debate is encouraged and time is taken to improve those Wilderness bills so that both resources and access are treated in a fair manner.
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