U.S. House Rejects Massive Public Lands Bill

By Beacon Staff

The U.S. House voted down a massive, 1,248-page public lands bill along a 282-144 vote today. Though 282 representatives supported the bill, under the special rules of the vote, two-thirds of the House were required to vote in favor. House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., called the bill, “the most important piece of conservation legislation we will likely consider this year and possibly in this entire Congress,” shortly before it failed.

The bill included an enormous number of provisions, from designating more than 2 million acres in nine states to additions to Everglades National Park to addressing water needs in a bunch of western communities. McClatchy’s Michael Doyle offers up an excellent analysis of why the bill failed, and why it’s a bit of an embarrassment for House Democratic leadership, who obviously miscalculated support for the bill:

The leadership’s first tactical decision was to fold 172 different provisions into one giant package. This big-tent approach is typical for public lands legislation, because it diversifies political support.

By Wednesday morning, though, the bill’s size worked against it.

House leaders brought the bill up under a suspension of the rules. This blocks potential amendments, but it also requires a two-thirds vote instead of the standard majority.

“This vote was a rejection of Democrat leaders’ attempt to abuse the suspension process to jam through an over 1,200 page bill costing $10 billion without any chance to amend or improve it,” declared Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the senior Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Over at NewWest.net, Beacon columnist Bill Schneider is detailing the disappointment over the decision by conservation groups like Trout Unlimited.

And conservation groups aren’t the only ones disappointed. U.S. Sen Jon Tester, D-Mont., who had a provision in the bill to reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, is also bumming that the bill failed. In a statement, Tester said that “politics got in the way”:

“I’m disappointed by the House’s failure to pass the Public Lands Bill. Republicans and Democrats worked together to create a smart measure that’s good for Montana and for our outdoor heritage. The Public Lands Bill included measures to protect ranchers from wolves and to help Montanans manage fishing habitat. Unfortunately, politics got in the way.”

Tester included several provisions in the Public Lands Bill, including the bipartisan Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act (also known as the Wolf Kill Bill) and the Cooperative Watershed Management Act. The measure would have also transferred the historic Elkhorn Cemetery from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to Jefferson County.

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