Senate uses procedures to pass bill with Owyhees wilderness. What's next?

The Omnibus Lands bill that includes the Owyhee Canyonlands bill and another 170 public land bills no longer is a bill. It is an amendment.

The Senate approved the amendment today, 77-20, with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo acting as floor manager. The Senate sent it to the House attached to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act The bill came back to the Senate a week ago from the House after House Democratic leaders failed to gain a two-third majority to pass it under rules of suspension.

They closed the voting two votes short as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were gathering the final needed votes. So now the Senate has debated the bill, I mean amendment, for a week.

It was added to the 1812 legislation so it can be approved under regular rules and a simple majority vote. That’s expected to happen by March 25.

So will another Idaho wilderness bill come soon? It may depend on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Carole King.

In all of the legislative machinations Reps. Mike Simpson, Walt Minnick and Sen. Mike Crapo were looking for opportunities to insert the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill into the mix. But opening the bill up proved to be too complicated and Idaho’s other major wilderness legislation will have to wait.

The passage of Owyhee Canyonland wilderness – 517,000 acres of it – would end the drought that began when Larry Craig came to Idaho in 1980 and lasted until he left. But Craig’s exit doesn’t mean smooth sailing for future Idaho wilderness bills.

King, a devoted wilderness advocate, opposes the Boulder-White Clouds bill in part because it removes a major chunk of wilderness from her own Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. Simpson’s Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act protect more than 300,000 acres of wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds. King’s bill would protect more than 450,000 acres.

Overall the Northern Rockies bill would protect more than 23 million acres of the region in wilderness and other designations. But since it was first introduced nearly 20 years ago it has gone no where.

Its strategy of gaining national support and rolling over the congressmen in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming flies in the face of how Congress does business. Only rarely has such a strategy succeeded, civil rights being the most obvious example.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies executive director Michael Garrity said supporters of the Northern Rockies bill are not naive.

"We know how sausage is made," he said.

But they believe they have a chance to get the bill to the House floor for a vote this year because they have the support of House leadership and 69 co-sponsors.

As big as the Omnibus Lands bill is, it only designates a total of about 2 million acres, with a quarter of that in the Owyhee Canyonlands. If King succeeds in bottling up Simpson’s bill, which has the support of Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League, it may be that future wilderness in Idaho and Montana will have to await the passage of her Northern Rockies bill, which without the support of at least Montana’s Democratic senators and Idaho Democratic Rep. Minnick, is unlikely.

Whatever happens, the fate of both of these bills are inextricably tied for now.


wilderness/Carole King

We don't need any new wilderness, all it does is "fence" sportsmen out of more
and more areas. I am all for conservation, but, wilderness is another matter...
IT is the land of NO use. It is especially unfair to Americans with disabilities, who
will no longer be able to enjoy these areas.

Carole King is a joke! the first thing she did when she bought her ranch was to put
up fences to keep people out. Now she is using wilderness designation to fence
people out of "her" areas!

They go home for dinner.

Gilligan inhaled

What's Next?


You are an Idaho-based reporter, and this morning I read some news about Idaho that raised a lot of questions -- the types of questions that reporters often ask. Maybe you or your readers can give me some help on this:

According the the AP, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) just bought "easement rights" to 1200-acres of salmon and grouse "habitat" on the Pahsimeroi River in Idaho in order to "try to stop development."

They used money provided by the "federally funded" Idaho Snake River Basin Adjudication Habitat Fund (ISRBAHF) and something called the Kemmerer Foundation.

They bought the rights from Beartooth Capital (BTC), "an investment partnership that specializes in acquiring and restoring ecologically important lands."


1) How much ISRBAHF (taxpayer) money was used to make the purchase?

2) What does TNC plan to do with the purchase?

3) How much money did BTC make from their investment?

4) Do any BTC principals also belong to TNC?

5) What county did these transactions occur in?

6) What do the county commissioners of that county think about these acres being removed from potential "development?"

7) Have salmon and grouse actually been documented on the land?

8) Who is Kimmerer, and what is his/her association with BTC and/or TNC?

9) How is any of this (even remotely) in the best interests of Idaho and US taxpayers?

10) Is this representative of "What's Next" for private lands that cannot (for now) be declared Wilderness, Wild and Scenic, Roadless, etc., as is being systematically done on federal lands?

These are the types of questions I'd truly be interested in hearing you respond to, Rocky, rather than the highly speculative Global Warming stuff you've been caught up in.

Any first thoughts or takes?


Bob I don't know the answers to all your questions and because the valley is on the other side of the state and because I'm busy with stories closer to home. I won't immediately get answers but I do know that Lemhi County supports this effort becuase its rural commissioners support the salmon recovery effort there in part because it keeps the state in control of issue instead of the courts. There is salmon there and grouse that's undisputed.

Restoring the habitat is a high priority for the region says the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the tribes and NOAA, though I must add that the Idaho Statesman and others have argued that breached the four dams on the Snake River is a higher priority and a better way to spend federal funds to save the salmon in the Snake basin.

I will try to get the financial questions answered but you will be surprised to find there is a lot of support for this work in the rural areas of central Idaho. Afterall, ranching will continue. which is what the people there want more than Sun Valley-like development.

Kemmerer is a town in Wyoming. Draw your own contusions.

Granola whimpers upon spying my countenance

Thanks, Rocky

I'm not sure how "surprised" I'll be by rural support of these types of transactions, I'm just curious about the apparently convoluted methods by which federal monies are being "invested" in private lands to "stop development" (whatever that means). And who is, bottom line, making money from these deals.

It just smells fishy, that's all.