Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Public lands bill stripped of major Montana provisions in U.S. Senate

Only the most uncontroversial and cost-free ideas appear to have a chance of passage during the final days of congressional land policy legislation, and that doesn't include most Montana measures. An omnibus public lands bill with 110 combined projects died on the vine Monday evening in the U.S. Senate, but was expected to be replaced by a considerably smaller bill late Tuesday. Conservation policy watchers in Washington, D.C., were doubtful measures like the North Flathead Protection Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be among them. "I think there's very little hope of passage," Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership government relations director Tom Franklin said Tuesday afternoon. "Earlier in the day, I heard it had been pared down to the point nothing substantial was left. If something passes, it will be pretty innocuous stuff." A coalition of 173 conservation groups throughout the country lobbied for passage of the America's Great Outdoors Act of 2010. The Wilderness Society's Paul Spitler said the bill would have designated more than 300,000 acres of wilderness and create another 400,000 acres of National Conservation Areas. It would also have extended the authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund through 2015...more

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