Tuesday, November 18, 2008

OWYHEE INITIATIVE BILL TO BE PRESENTED IN NEW CONGRESS

From: Fred Kelly Grant, Chairman Owyhee Initiative Work Group
[mailto: fredkellygrant@msn.com]
Jerry Hoagland, Chairman Owyhee County, Idaho Commissioners
Sent: Monday, 11/17/08 6:13 pm
To: Fred Kelly Grant (fredkellygrant@msn.com)

It appears clear that the Owyhee Initiative Bill will not be voted on in the lame duck session of Congress, but will be re-introduced by Senator Crapo in January in the new Congress. Since being recommended for passage by a unanimous vote in the Energy-Natural Resources committee, the committee and Senate leadership packaged it into the Omnibus Public Lands Bill with 149 other bills.

Just prior to the pre-election recess of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the lands package would be called to the floor for a vote during the lame duck session which began today. Last Friday, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the press that the Omnibus Lands Bill will not be voted on during this session.

Today, Owyhee County Commissioners and the Chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group have confirmed with several sources in DC that the bill will not be voted on during the lame duck session. The sources, Eastern, Mid-Western and Western Senators-key staff members-and special interest representatives on the Hill have relayed their belief that the bill will not be brought forward for vote. They also confirm that Senator Reid has assured the sponsors of the 150 bills that the delay does not diminish in any way his commitment to lead the bill to a vote when the new Congress convenes in January, 2009.

Senate sources say that the bill is being delayed because of Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) threatened filibuster of the bill, which could tie the Senate up for a good full three days. With all the funding problems facing the Senate during the economic crisis, leadership does not believe that the three days can be wasted in the short lame duck session. Senate Coburn has opposed the bills in the package because of expenditures of $4 billion over a period of years, and because so many acres of public land will be removed from energy. 60 Senators would be needed to stop the filibuster. Senator Reid said that with the new Democrats coming in for the January session, there will be far less trouble getting the 60 necessary votes for cloture.

So, the Owyhee Initiative Bill will have to wait also until the new Congress convenes. The Owyhee Work Group, a broad base coalition, has worked on the Owyhee Agreement and the implementing bill for nearly 8 years. The sponsor, Senator Mike Crapo, has praised the efforts of ranchers, county officials, conservation groups and recreation groups to put together a local solution to local land use problems.

The bill will result in a net gain of 29,000 acres of private property to the Owyhee County tax base. It also provides for range expert review of BLM decisions, release of over 300,000 acres to full multiple use, reservation of about 500,000 acres as wilderness, and designation of wild and scenic rivers---all in an attempt to resolve land use disputes raging for three decades. The bill also provides for a travel management plan to implement challenging trail systems for use by recreational vehicles and to protect private property.

The Owyhee Bill features authorization to fund a cultural site protection plan prepared by the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Nevada and Idaho. Tribal rangers to patrol and protect one of the largest unprotected acreages of cultural and religious sites in the lower 48 states will be authorized by the bill. The Tribes joined with Owyhee County Commissioners in presenting the Owyhee Initiative Agreement to Senator Crapo for legislative action.

Dr. Chad Gibson, representative of the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association on the Owyhee Work Group, said today that “we haven’t given up on the Owyhee bill. The agreement we crafted is historic, and we must keep after it until the bill gets passed.”

Tim Lowry, president and representative of the Owyhee County Farm Bureau on the Work Group agreed with Gibson, “Our bill is critical for protection of the economic stability of our ranchers.”

Grant Simonds, executive director of the Outfitters and Guides Association, looks forward to the January session and “finally getting to a vote the product of our long years of work to craft a bill that serves all multiple users of the public lands in Owyhee County.”

Jerry Hoagland, Chairman of the Owyhee County Board of Commissioners thanked Senator Crapo and his staff for the strong effort they have made to gain passage of the bill which represents solutions fashioned by local citizens and interests. “We know that Senator Crapo will move strongly for passage early in the new Congress, and he will be working with the support of the full Idaho delegation. We have been assured that Senator Risch (newly elected R-Id), and Representatives Simpson (R-Id) and Minnick (newly elected D-Id) will support the bill and Senator Crapo’s efforts for passage.”

Fred Kelly Grant, chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group, thanked the American Land Rights Association, Stewards of the Range and the American Land Foundation for their statements favorable to the Owyhee bill.

Grant said “Chuck Cushman, a long time friend of Owyhee County, has lead a strong fight against the Omnibus lands package, but has said that the Owyhee bill is an example of a good bill which should be supported if it were by itself.”

He also pointed out that Stewards of the Range and American Land Foundation “also friends of Owyhee County citizens, opposed the lands package in a letter to each Senator, but singled out the Owyhee bill as a private property bill which deserved passage if standing alone.” Grant said “the County Commissioners and I appreciate the positive statements about our specific bill. We have worked hard to gain confidence of all interest groups in the value of our bill.”

For further comment or information, CONTACT Fred Kelly Grant, Chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group--- fredkellygrant@msn.com; or Staci Grant---yipikiya@msn.com.

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