Tuesday, November 18, 2008


From: Fred Kelly Grant, Chairman Owyhee Initiative Work Group
Jerry Hoagland, Chairman Owyhee County, Idaho Commissioners
Sent: Monday, 11/17/08 6:13 pm

It appears clear that the Owyhee Initiative Bill will not be voted on in the lame duck session of Congress, but will be re-introduced by Senator Crapo in January in the new Congress. Since being recommended for passage by a unanimous vote in the Energy-Natural Resources committee, the committee and Senate leadership packaged it into the Omnibus Public Lands Bill with 149 other bills.

Just prior to the pre-election recess of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the lands package would be called to the floor for a vote during the lame duck session which began today. Last Friday, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the press that the Omnibus Lands Bill will not be voted on during this session.

Today, Owyhee County Commissioners and the Chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group have confirmed with several sources in DC that the bill will not be voted on during the lame duck session. The sources, Eastern, Mid-Western and Western Senators-key staff members-and special interest representatives on the Hill have relayed their belief that the bill will not be brought forward for vote. They also confirm that Senator Reid has assured the sponsors of the 150 bills that the delay does not diminish in any way his commitment to lead the bill to a vote when the new Congress convenes in January, 2009.

Senate sources say that the bill is being delayed because of Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) threatened filibuster of the bill, which could tie the Senate up for a good full three days. With all the funding problems facing the Senate during the economic crisis, leadership does not believe that the three days can be wasted in the short lame duck session. Senate Coburn has opposed the bills in the package because of expenditures of $4 billion over a period of years, and because so many acres of public land will be removed from energy. 60 Senators would be needed to stop the filibuster. Senator Reid said that with the new Democrats coming in for the January session, there will be far less trouble getting the 60 necessary votes for cloture.

So, the Owyhee Initiative Bill will have to wait also until the new Congress convenes. The Owyhee Work Group, a broad base coalition, has worked on the Owyhee Agreement and the implementing bill for nearly 8 years. The sponsor, Senator Mike Crapo, has praised the efforts of ranchers, county officials, conservation groups and recreation groups to put together a local solution to local land use problems....

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