Despite widespread support in the Senate and a seemingly non-controversial to the Capitol, on Wednesday the House defeated the The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which would have protected over 2 million acres in 160 sites across nine states as brand new wilderness. Sometimes a tricked-out bus just isn't enough, I guess.
A majority of the House supported the bill, 282-144, but Democrats brought it forward under special circumstances requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. Republicans complained about the manner in which the bill was raised, and they also argued that the measure could cost $10 billion and would block oil and gas development on federal land.
Democrats hailed it as one of the most important pieces of conservation in years, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, claimed the bill would reassure Americans troubled by the economy that "our national parks are still beautiful, our national battlefields are still sacred and our national rivers are still wild and scenic."
Democrats have already added an amendment requested by the NRA that the bill would not impose new restrictions on hunting, fishing or trapping on federal land. If it passed, the measure would've conferred the government's highest level of protection on land on sites in Idaho's Owyhee Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Oregon's Mount Hood, California's Sierra Nevada, Virginia's Jefferson National Forest, among others.
No word yet on when Congress might attempt to pass another version of the The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, but you can urge your congressperson to do so right here.
House defeats wilderness bill (AP)