The U.S. House gets a second crack at passing the Omnibus Public Land Management Act this week, possibly as early as Wednesday, with only a simple majority needed to designate more than 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Incredibly, although not surprisingly, the House earlier this month rejected the package of 150 public lands, natural resources and water bills by a scant two votes. Colorado’s congressional delegation split on party lines, with Republicans Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman dissenting.
Democrats in the Senate, which had originally approved the package in January by a 74-21 vote, reintroduced the measure in order to streamline it to require a simple-majority vote in the House as opposed to a two-thirds majority. The Senate passed it again last week by a 77-20 margin.
According to the American Park Network’s ohranger.com site, the Nixon administration in 1974 first proposed Rocky Mountain National Park be designated as wilderness, which prohibits most motorized activity and strictly limits other development.
The Wilderness Society says the measure does a number of other things — including blocking 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range from oil and gas development — and will effectively cement the environmental legacy of the 111th Congress by:
• Designating more than 2 million acres of wilderness in California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia;
• Codifying the National Landscape Conservation System, which currently protects 26 million acres of natural treasures managed by the Bureau of Land Management, including such American icons as Canyons of the Ancients, Carrizo Plain, and Sonoran Desert national monuments;
• Protecting 1.2 million acres of the scenic Wyoming Range in western Wyoming from oil and gas development;
• Protecting free-flowing rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, and Massachusetts as Wild and Scenic Rivers; and
• Designating numerous new National Scenic Trails, Natural Historic Sites, and National Heritage Areas across the United States.