Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

U.S. House votes to preserve public lands, Hastings prefers exploitation

Earlier today the U.S. House of Representatives voted 285-140 to approve the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which passed the Senate last week. The bill approves over one hundred public lands projects and preserves 2 million acres of federal wilderness, including adding land to the Mount Hood Wilderness Area, creating a Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail from Washington to Montana, and preserving canyonlands along the Owyhee River in Idaho. It's a great victory for preserving the quality of life that we in the West enjoy.

The sweeping Omnibus Public Lands Package passed the U.S. Senate on a 77-21 vote last week, and was approved 285-140 by the House on Wednesday. It goes to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it.

The bill includes designation of a Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, beginning on the Olympic Coast and stretching east to the Continental Divide in Montana's Glacier National Park.

Its biggest designation is 517,000 acres of wilderness in the high-desert uplands and canyonlands of the Owyhee River in Idaho. It would also give Wild and Scenic River designation to 316 miles of rivers in the Owyhee, Bruneau and Jarbridge river systems of the Gem State.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a longtime proponent of protecting the land around Mt. Hood released the following statement:

“Today’s passage marks the culmination of seven years of work that I’ve been involved with to preserve some of our nation’s most treasured places, including those on Mt. Hood. It is a great day for the state of Oregon. Oregonians have been waiting a long time for the passage of new wilderness and I am overjoyed that today we will finally send this measure to the President’s desk. Our state boasts some of the nations most beautiful natural wonders and Oregonians should not have to wait another 20 years to protect its natural beauty and our children’s environmental legacy.“

The trail was long and the battle hard, but today, by working together across the aisle we have preserved an important piece of Oregon’s natural history for generations to come. I am grateful to my colleagues in Oregon’s congressional delegation and the hundreds of constituents, numerous organizations and agencies, local governments and Tribal leaders who have all worked tirelessly to pass these wilderness provisions. I look forward to celebrating with all Oregonians the signing into law of new Oregon wilderness by President Obama.”

Of course, not all members of Congress from the Northwest are happy. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA) laments that his oil baron friends won't be able to rape the land and continue the Dick Cheney energy policy.

The legislation will result in "bureaucrats putting up 'do not enter' and 'keep out' signs across America's public lands," Hastings argued. He talked about "locking away" billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

That's right Doc. Do not enter and keep out. If you want to drill for oil, please consider moving to Alaska where a certain Governor has been a cheerleader for oil exploration. The word on the street in Wasilla is that you can see Russia from there.

But it wasn't just not being able to destroy public lands that caused Congressman Hastings to oppose the bill. More importantly, Hastings voted against the bill because a provision that would have allowed people to carry loaded firearms in national parks (presumably because crime rates in are so high in parks that one needs protection) was left out and it failed to get the NRA's seal of approval.

The full roll call vote for the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 can be found here.


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