Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Montana wilderness added to Senate appropriations bill

A revised version of Sen. Jon Tester's Montana logging and wilderness initiative has been included in a last-minute omnibus appropriations bill before the U.S. Senate. Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said on Tuesday the renamed "Forest Jobs and Restoration Pilot Initiative" is essentially the original version of a bill Tester submitted last year as the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. The major difference is that a logging mandate that called for 100,000 acres of "mechanical treatment" over 10 years has been extended to 15 years. The bill also contains about 660,000 acres of new wilderness designation for Montana, plus another 300,000 acres of recreation or special management areas. Several wildland boundaries have been adjusted up or down, with a net reduction of 2,800 acres...more

I don't know how Tester got this done, or why Reid included it in the appropriations bill, but it's there: Title VII MONTANA FORESTS starting on page 893.

I had earlier read the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Summary provided by the Committee, and had told people it looked like a clean appropriations bill.

However, when I downloaded the full Omnibus Appropriations Act and went to the Interior section, there was the Tester bill.

The inclusion of wilderness legislation in an omnibus appropriations bill is worrisome to us who are opposing an Omnibus Public Lands Bill. It raises many questions. For instance:

Why is a bill that never cleared committee included, while no bills that cleared committee are included?

Won't the enviros ask Bingaman: Why can a freshman Senator get his bill included but you as Committee Chairman can't? Similar questions could be asked of other senior Committee members.

This leads me back to my original question, why is it there?

Is it there because Reid knows the Omnibus Approps Bill in its current form will never pass? Is it just there to let Tester look good at home?

I'm beginning to think this whole Omnibus Public Lands Bill issue has been nothing but political theater. I mean from the beginning, including the Bingaman-Boxer-Reid meeting, it has been nothing but political theater. The knew from the beginning of the lame duck session that either a) it wasn't a high priority, or b) they didn't have the hosses to pass it. The whole thing has been for show.

Political theater may be too kind a phrase. Looney Toons might be more descriptive.

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