After a few false starts, Congress has approved a massive public lands bill that protects 200 million acres of wilderness and a thousand miles of rivers. The bill, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (H.R.146), also creates new national trails, national parks and a new national monument.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today is "a day of celebration for all who treasure and enjoy our natural and cultural heritage." President Obama is expected to sign the bill.
According to the Nature Conservancy, the bill includes:
The Forest Landscape Restoration Program (FLRP) will provide new authority to manage treatment of fire at greater scales across lands managed by the Forest Service and Department of Interior. This important shift in scale and approach will reduce costs by focusing funding on large-scale, collaborative, science-based projects where wildfire risks are high.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) along with Title XII (Subtitle e) of the Omnibus Bill will protect coastal areas with high conservation, recreation, historic and aesthetic value while also providing important support for coastal/marine mapping and climate change adaptation.
The Owyhee Lands Management Act, supported by Senator Crapo, will designate more than half a million acres of Idaho’s Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands as wilderness along with 315 miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers and other environmental protection.
The Washington County Utah Bill will designate more than 260,000 acres of land in Utah as Wilderness and 166 miles of Virgin River and its tributaries and National Wild and Scenic Rivers. This legislation, championed by Senator Bennett, also creates two national conservation Areas in Washington County, creating protections for the desert tortoise and recreational opportunities on 140,000 acres.
Under the leadership of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Everglades National Park Expansion provision will assure the protection of a key resource in the Florida Bay.