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Public Lands News from the Senate )
February 15, 2007

Greetings!

Hello, again!

As promised in last week’s e-news, here’s a brief rundown on changes in the Senate committee that oversees public land issues.

In the Senate, public land issues are under the jurisdiction of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee and the Public Land and Forests Subcommittee. Bills affecting public land are heard in the subcommittee and “marked up,” or debated and amended, in the full committee before proceeding to the floor.

Democrat Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is now chair of the full committee, replacing Republican Pete Domenici.

Last year, at the beginning of what was to be the Senate’s last public land bill hearing in the 109th Congress, Bingaman released a statement on an issue of great concern to us—legislation that we came to call “quid pro quo wilderness.” His statement included the following:

"I understand that any proposal to designate wilderness involves compromise and tradeoffs as to how many acres should be protected and what the potential impact will be to other uses... [The] balancing has been complicated, however, in that many wilderness proposals are now packaged together with directed Federal land sales; requirements to use inflated land valuations; mandatory motorized use areas; and requirements for land management agencies to fund local development projects. In my view, the packaging of wilderness bills with provisions such as these is a very troubling trend."

Bingaman also made the connection between these bills and attempts by some to push wholesale federal land disposal, saying further:

"In the past year, there was bipartisan opposition to a proposalů [involving] the forced sale of millions of acres of public lands. Likewise, there was joint opposition to the Administration’s proposal to sell National Forests and BLM lands... Yet, I fear that if we follow the practice of some recent and proposed wilderness bills, we will essentially be undoing decades of Federal land policy and... encouraging the disposal of public lands, only this time on a county-by-county basis, as negotiated by each State’s congressional delegation and local officials."

Bingaman’s leadership in the committee could make a real difference for public land.

We are less enthusiastic about the new Democratic chair of the Public Land and Forests Subcommittee, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. Wyden is getting ready to introduce a bill designating wilderness on Mt. Hood that would also implement a controversial and lopsided land exchange. Click here to read a recent Oregonian article on the bill.

You can visit the Energy & Natural Resources website to get links to bills under consideration, hearing schedules, even archived hearing webcasts (we’re more excited about that than we probably should be).

As always, contact us any time to learn more about legislation we are monitoring.


Yours,

Janine, Joanne and Chris

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