News & Features
From the Idyllwild Town Crier weekly newspaper, 01.15.09 edition.
Senate moves wilderness bill forward
By J.P. Crumrine, News
Wilderness legislation is moving much faster in the 111th Congress,
which began last week. On Friday, Jan. 9, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
introduced her bill to protect nearly 190,000 Southern California
acres, many of which are in Riverside County. Also, last week, the U.S.
Senate announced its intention to begin what it could not finish in the
final weeks of the 110th Congress.
On Sunday, the new Senate Democratic majority was able to invoke
cloture for the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Sen. Tom
Coburn’s (R-OK) filibuster threats prevented enactment of the same bill
The cloture rule is the only formal procedure the Senate has for
breaking a filibuster, which is an attempt to block or delay Senate
action on a bill or other matter. Under cloture, the Senate may limit
consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate.
With 58 Senate seats, the Democrats were able — with some Republican
assistance — to obtain the three-fifths majority necessary to eliminate
the filibuster and limit debate on the bill. The final vote was 66 for
cloture and 12 opposed. Twenty senators did not vote.
Its passage is now expected in the Senate, perhaps this week, according
to Jennifer May, Bono Mack’s communication director. A similar bill
passed the House in September and Coburn, single-handedly, contained
the bill to the Senate sidelines after the November election.
House passage is expected once the Senate finishes its work.
Title 1, subsection L, incorporates Bono Mack’s 2008 Riverside
Wilderness bill. The bill creates four new wilderness areas, adds 31
miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River system, and
expands the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
Within the San Bernardino National Forest, the South Fork of the San
Jacinto River and Cahuilla Mountain are two local areas that would be
added to the wilderness system. Together, about 29,000 acres will be
designated wilderness. This is in addition to the existing San Jacinto
and Santa Rosa wilderness areas that total nearly 80,000 acres.
Portions of the North Fork of the San Jacinto River would be designated
as Wild and Scenic, as well as Bautista Creek and Fuller Mill Creek.
“I applaud the Senate for moving quickly on this important legislation
that will preserve some of our most spectacular and scenic lands for
future generations,” said Bono Mack. “These exquisite, wild lands are
an integral part of our heritage, and I am pleased that we are so close
to seeing them protected for years to come. I look forward to
continuing to work with my colleagues in both the House and Senate on
this very important effort.”
Prior to the Senate vote, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, implored his colleagues
to vote for the cloture motion.
“Some have questioned the wisdom of protecting federal lands at a time
when the nation is seeking to expand domestic conventional and
alternative energy production. First of all, it’s important to note
that according to the Bureau of Land Management, almost none of the
wilderness areas that would be created by this bill are believed to
contain significant energy development potential,” Bingaman said.
“Consideration of these bills has been long delayed, and I strongly
support moving forward with this package expeditiously, beginning this
afternoon with a vote to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the
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