Battle brewing over Senate proposal to protect public lands

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears poised to deliver on a recent promise to revisit the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2008, which would combine more than 150 separate conservation bills and permanently protect nearly two million acres of public lands in eight states.

It would include designating Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado as wilderness area, which prohibits motorized vehicles and severely restricts most types of development. The act also would limit further energy development in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and provide a higher level of protection for the Snake River near Jackson.

Predictably, pro-business and energy development groups, including the Western Roundtable based in Lakewood, Colo., and the Competitive Enterprise Institute conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., have called Reid’s actions a massive land grab by a lame-duck Senate.

Conservation groups such as the Wilderness Society have lauded the act as the first meaningful public lands protection act in more than a decade, and praised its formation of a 26-million-acre national conservation system. Groups on both sides are urging stakeholders to contact their members of Congress.

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