Senate Democrats

The Bipartisan Environmental Accomplishments of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009

Today, President Obama will sign into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.  The legislation represents the most significant conservation legislation passed by Congress in 15 years and is the product of years of bipartisan work by Senators Reid, Bingaman, Murkowski, former Senator Domenici, and many others.

This Fact Sheet outlines some of the important environmental provisions in the legislation, which designates over two million acres of wilderness; adds over 1,000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers; 2,800 miles of National Trails; 330,000 acres of National Conservation Areas; codifies the National Landscape Conservation System; and authorizes the Forest Landscape Conservation Service and measures to improve our oceans, coasts, Great Lakes, and water resources.

Wilderness

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 designates over two million acres of wilderness-surpassing the combined wilderness acreage designated by the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses.[1]  The designation of the two million plus acres of new wilderness areas spans nine states (West Virginia, Virginia, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, and California). The designation of wilderness allows Congress to protect our nation’s most pristine lands and best wildlife habitats for the current and future generations.

Wild and Scenic Rivers

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 adds over 1,000 miles to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in seven states (Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and Massachusetts).  Wild and Scenic Rivers are designated by Congress to preserve free flowing rivers that possess outstandingly remarkable environmental, scenic, and recreational features.

National Trails System

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 adds more than 2,800 miles into the National Trails System through the creation of new national trails in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.  The National Trails System is designed to preserve public access to trails so that they can continue to be valuable resources for our country.

National Monuments

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 creates the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument that will protect the world’s most significant Early Permian tracksites.  These trackways were formed about 280 million years ago by amphibians, reptiles, and other animals that predated dinosaurs.  National Monuments give protections to important areas that contain historical and pre-historical interests.

National Conservation Areas

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 creates more than 330,000acres of new National Conservation Areas in Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.  National Conservation Areas provide important protections from development while also improving those areas recreational opportunities.[2]

Oceans

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 will improve our nation’s understanding of the oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes by authorizing coordinated federal research programs that will:

·        Increase our understanding of ocean acidification, a process by which seawater becomes more acidic as the oceans absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.  The acidity of surface seawater has increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution-the most dramatic change in ocean chemistry in at least 650,000 years[3];

·        Expand our understanding of oceans, which cover two-thirds of the earth’s surface.  Only approximately five percent of the ocean floor has been explored, and the potential for identifying new and beneficial scientific information, new drugs, and resources in the oceans remains significant; and

·        Advance the knowledge of coastal and ocean resources and ecosystems that today lack real-time, standardized, and accessible data on key environmental variables like temperature, salinity, sea level, surface currents, and pH.  The lack of this data significantly impairs data on the impacts that climate change could have on coastal and ocean ecosystems.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 also authorizes funding for coastal and estuarine landprotection.  The pressures from increasing urbanization and pollution threaten these habitats.  Conserving these areas will help meet diverse priorities, such as promoting tourism and recreation and supporting fisheries and wildlife that substantially contribute to coastal economies.

National Landscape Conservation System

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 codifies the National Landscape Conservation System currently operating administratively within the Department of Interior.  In 2000, the Department of Interior administratively established the National Landscape Conservation System so that public awareness of the various natural areas managed by the Department of Interior might be increased.  The codification of the National Landscape Conservation System will help ensure that sustained funding will be available for the Department of Interior to protect its most exceptional areas while also keeping environmental protection a high priority at the Department of Interior for years to come.

Forest Landscape Restoration Program

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 authorizes landscape restoration projects (Forest Landscape Restoration Program) on National Forests and other lands to help lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfires.  The importance of improving forest landscape restoration will continue to grow as climate change increases risks, like catastrophic wildfires, to our nation’s forests.  Additionally, the need to deprive wildfires of hazardous fuels will continue to grow as the number and acreage of wildfires has grown in recent years.

Water Resources

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 authorizes the Department of the Interior to help address critical water resource needs nationwide, including:

·        Funding for local and regional water projects that will enhance water use efficiencies, address infrastructure in disrepair; provide a sustainable supply to rural communities; and conserve water to protect the environment while minimizing Endangered Species Act conflicts;

·        Actions to improve the scientific understanding of critical water resources including the impact of climate change on water; and

·        Ending litigation over water allocation by implementing three important water settlements that address the nation’s obligations to Native Americans in New Mexico and Nevada, and restore a salmon fishery in the San Joaquin River in California.



[1] Congressional Research Service, Wilderness Overview and Statistics, January 8, 2009.

[2] Calculated from adding the total conservation acreage of the Red Cliffs, Beaver Dam, Fort Stanton and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Areas. The Fort Stanton acreage is estimated by using the estimated acreage in Senate Report 110-13.

[3] Discover Magazine, "Ocean Acidification: A Global Case of Osteoporosis," July 16, 2008.

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