By Dave Hurwitz
Chairman, Snowmobile Alliance of Western States
SAWS directors have been following closely, and discussing among ourselves since late October, the possibility of a massive omnibus package that could include a large amount of new wilderness designations.
We were previously prepared to send out an alert to our members regarding our concerns that such a bill might make it through the closing days of the lame duck session of the 111th Congress, but we did not want to send out a false alarm if there was not a good chance such a bill might rear its ugly head.
With the press release and letter below from Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) dated Dec. 2, 2010, SAWS decided to immediately notify our members about our concerns and request that you contact the two US Senators and the US Representative from your state and tell them to vote "NO" on any potential omnibus bill that may come up for a vote this month.
If a new omnibus bill is introduced this month which Wilderness bills affecting which states might be included in the package? Unfortunately, no one knows for sure at this time which Wilderness bills might be included that could close areas you currently recreate in.
There is a good possibility that the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, which proposes to add approximately 330,000 acres as Wilderness in central Idaho, could be included in the package. Also, there is a chance that Senator Jon Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, a bill that proposes to add approximately 677,000 acres as Wilderness in western Montana may also be included. Senator Tester's office has recently stated, "The senator would be exploring all legislative options for passing the bill during the lame-duck session." There are far more important things the 111th Congress should be addressing in its closings days instead of passing legislation that would spend money to close lands that the public currently enjoys for snowmobiling and other forms of recreation.
Recall the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (HR 146) that added 2.1 million acres to the National Wilderness Protection System when it was signed into law by President Barrack Obama on March 30, 2009? We sure do not want to see a repeat of that bill or worse.
Act today to contact your two US Senators and your US Representative. Tomorrow may be too late.
Hastings Blasts Lame Duck Democrats' Attempt to Push Through Massive Omnibus Package
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 2, 2010 - House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement following reports of a potential omnibus lands, wildlife and waterways package being developed in the U.S. Senate:
"Somewhere in the Senate, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer are secretly constructing a Frankenstein omnibus of bills from three separate Committees.
"Democrat leaders are ignoring the overwhelming message sent by voters in November that they wanted an end to the backroom deals that produce giant bills loaded with new spending and job-killing policies.
"It isn't known just how monstrous of a bill is being assembled-that's the problem with backroom deals and omnibus packages.
"The House Natural Resources Committee Republican staff has conducted a specific bill-by-bill analysis, based on public reports and reliable private accounts, of the range of legislation that is possibly being packaged into this omnibus-it could total as high as 126 bills, which would equate to a 1,400-page behemoth of over $10 billion in authorized spending.
"The Boxer omnibus may never reach this full size, but the American people should know the scope of bills being considered. This includes dozens of bills that have never passed a single committee, either chamber of Congress, or even been the subject of a hearing.
"In addition to the cost of new spending and newly created programs, the omnibus could:
- restrict the creation of energy jobs and more American-made energy,
- exacerbate the billions of dollars of backlogged maintenance on existing federal lands,
- vastly expand EPA's control over waterways and economic activity,
- lock-up more public lands from public access and recreation,
- and complicate Border Patrol's ability to secure our borders from criminals, drug traffickers and potential terrorists."
Text of Doc Hastings letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:
I have serious concerns regarding current efforts in the Senate to pass a massive omnibus lands package in the final days of this Congress. According to news reports, such a package could consist of more than 126 different bills, many of which have not been considered by the House, and cost over $10 billion.
These concerns are well-founded given the manner in which a previous omnibus lands package, H.R. 146, was rushed into law last year. This legislation touched on a vast array of issues, spanned hundreds of pages and came at a $9 billion cost to the American taxpayer. H.R. 146 was cobbled together behind closed doors without any regards for transparency. Over half of the individual bills that compiled H.R. 146 never received a hearing in the House and were not properly vetted. In order to avoid any changes to this sprawling bill, and to also avoid having to take potentially politically harmful votes, H.R. 146 was brought to the House floor under a closed Rule that allowed for limited debate and no amendments.
This is not the way the American people expect Congress to legislate and is precisely the type of heavy handed tactics that helped fuel the public's desire for change in the recent election.
I ask that any attempt to move an omnibus lands package be done through an open, transparent and fair legislative process. Given that a large number of these bills have never been seen before in the House, I request that any legislative package of this type be subject to full committee mark-ups in any of the committees that have jurisdiction over the titles included in the legislation. I also ask that this legislation be subject to an open rule on the House floor in order to allow for amendments, improvement and proper debate.
This omnibus lands bill will have significant impacts on American jobs, our economy and our nation's energy, environmental and land-use policies. Such a significant bill should not be hastily pushed through Congress without thoughtful and careful consideration.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. I look forward to your timely response.
House Natural Resources Committee