Stacks Of New Bills Come At Wrong Time
Politicians in Washington love to abbreviate the bulky official names of legislation, so let's shorten the "Omnibus Public Lands Management Act" to something simpler -- like "Land Grab" of "Energy Dependence."
This massive collection of 160 bills is moving through the Senate, and could be up for a vote as early as this week.
The legislation "would set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as wilderness," the Associated Press reported.
And in a signal that bipartisanship remains merely a campaign talking-point, "Majority Democrats assembled more than enough votes to overcome GOP stalling tactics in an early showdown for the new Congress."
The law would "confer the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would be designated as wilderness," according to the AP. "Besides new wilderness designations, the bill would designate the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton in Hope, Ark., as a national historic site and expand protections for dozens of national parks, rivers and water resources."
But the bill would also severely limit efforts toward real energy independence.
"At a time when the federal government faces an array of challenges ranging from a major recession to homeland security and ongoing military commitments abroad, the Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate has decided to focus first on locking away millions of acres of federal lands from energy and natural resource production," contends the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
"The legislation would create or expand over a dozen federal Wilderness Areas, create a whole new category of land lock-ups for the Bureau of Land Management (the so-called National Landscape Conservation System), and threaten private property owners across the country with extremely restrictive land use regulations by designating dozens of new National Trails, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Heritage Areas," CEI contends.
The bill is deeply flawed, "but the worst provisions are the ones that would prohibit oil and natural gas production on more than a million acres of federal land," said Myron Ebell, Director of Energy Policy for CEI. "Tens of millions of acres of federal lands in the West have already been withdrawn from mineral and energy production. The new Congress should be opening some of these areas, which would help increase domestic energy production and lower prices."
As fuel prices begin to rise again, perhaps lawmakers can be reminded of the need to develop viable energy resources here, rather than continue dangerous dependence on the Middle East for oil supplies.
As Ebell points out, the federal government has a poor track record in managing the land it already controls. Let's not give it more.