Statement of Senior Fellow R.J. Smith on the Defeat of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22) on the House Floor Wednesday

“The Democrat leadership’s omnibus land lock-up bill to shut down oil, gas and coal exploration and production in the midst of a recession and a domestic energy shortage — and to prevent the public from using their lands by placing tens of million more acres in restrictive non-use categories — was narrowly defeated Wednesday by a bipartisan group of 141 Republicans and three heroic Democrats.

We are still finding out how bad the Omnibus is.  We knew the section of the Omnibus with the prohibition on gathering fossils gave the federal government the authority to seize people’s vehicles and equipment, but the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences believes the language actually gives the federal government the authority to seize private lands as well.  So if you had some pretty pieces of petrified wood or a few trilobites or a tiny fish skeleton on your fireplace mantle — the federal government might be able to seize your ranch or farm or home.

And yet there were 282 votes for this monstrosity.  One of the real dangers of rolling 170+ individual bills into one 1,294-page, 9-inch thick omnibus.  I would bet NO ONE ever read it all.  Who knew what evils lurked in there?  One would hope if there had been hearings and mark-ups and committee votes on all the individual components, plus full debate on the House floor — that far fewer Congressmen would have voted for such a destructive draconian piece of legislation.

The major concern with the bill is the vast expansion of every sort of federal land ownership, including new and expanded National Parks, National Trails, National Heritage Areas, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, and more.

It would also create 82 new Wild and Scenic Rivers including over a thousand miles of rivers.

It would also create millions of acres of new Wilderness Areas.

In addition, S. 22 would give legislative authority and statutory permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System.  The NLCS was created by decree in June 2000 by then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.  It effectively removed at least 26 million acres from BLM multiple-use management, giving these lands near-Wilderness status.  Federal bureaucrats and environmentalists have longed to give this new land-management system official designation, placing it on a par with the National Park System and preventing future secretaries from opening the lands to even necessary and vital energy exploration.

This massive omnibus bill would lock up millions of acres of land at the height of an economic recession and at a time the U.S. is struggling to improve energy security.  Instead of creating jobs and increasing resources, energy supplies and wealth, it would destroy them.  It will shut down cattle grazing, mining, timber harvest, energy exploration and production and recreation.

And it would add another $10-12 billion of federal spending.

Hundreds of millions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas would be locked up.  It would kill a vital new liquefied natural gas terminal/port in Massachusetts so that Congressman Barney Frank — who frequently rails against oil companies for pushing energy prices higher — won’t have it spoil his view.

The omnibus would create a new coastal and estuarine conservation program as well.

It also includes provisions providing global warming and climate change programs on public lands.

Under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, it would make it a federal crime to collect or pick up fossils or fossilized rocks on any federal lands.  It would become a federal crime for school children to collect fossilized sharks’ teeth.  And in a scary twist it would extend civil asset forfeiture, permitting the government to seize ownership of all vehicles and equipment used in the gathering of any fossilized material.

Please remember to take the time to THANK your members who voted to kill this monster.  This bill was painted in every liberal newspaper as an effort to ‘preserve’ our future — instead of properly viewed as an effort to prevent America from having a future.

Now it is time to thank the Congressmen who have been fighting this for months and many of the individual bills in the omnibus for years.

And don’t just thank the Republicans who voted correctly.  141 Republicans voted ‘nay.’  But 34 voted for the Omnibus.  Nearly 20% of the GOP went south.  But what we really need to do is make a special effort to give some thanks and support to the THREE Democrats who voted ‘nay.’  THREE strong Democrats voted against the Omnibus and word on the Hill is that the Democrat leadership is coming down on them like a ton of bricks.  The Omnibus would have passed without their principled and statesmanlike stance.

They are: Dan Boren (OK-2), Jim Marshall (GA-8) and Colin Peterson (MN-7)

Please take the time to contact their offices and thank them for their courageous and pro-America vote.  Voting for needed jobs, resources and energy during the recession.

And if you live in their districts or have friends or contacts in their districts — call their district offices and talk with the district directors or press people and thank them.  And write some letters to the editor of their local newspapers.  Or call in on a talk show.

We will likely need their support again.  And it is very unpleasant being in a minority of three against the rest of the party.

Finally this bill and the urgency and pressure to pass it says a lot about the Congressional leadership.  Remember last fall when gasoline prices were high and the leadership of the Congress was running for cover talking about opening up the public lands, opening up the offshore fields, opening up oil shale, etc?

And they were also talking about creating a spirit of bipartisanship.

Well look at the Omnibus.  Locking up not only millions of acres of oil, gas and coal-rich lands — but closing an LNG terminal in New England and knowingly ending leasing on land with known deposits of 300 million barrels of oil and 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

And then trying to force all the Democrats to toe the line and support the Omnibus and then giving major grief to the three who showed some bipartisan spirit — and also voted for principles and against all the pork in the Omnibus.”

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