Harry Reid is determined to push through a lands bill before this session of Congress ends next month. We can only hope it succeeds.
The America's Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would add units to the park system, expand others, and order studies of prospective units. It also would create wilderness areas, both within existing units of the system and elsewhere on the public lands empire.
One measure, for instance, would transfer Valles Caldera National Preserve from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Park Service, another would create Waco Mammoth National Monument, yet another would expand Oregon Caves National Monument. Plus there's a bill that would add Castle Nugent on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the park system. And another would designated 32,577 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as official wilderness.
“I want to get this package done before Congress adjourns,” the Senate Majority Leader said Friday night. “These are bipartisan bills. There is nothing divisive about protecting historic battlefields, improving our most critical water sources, or making sure that our best wildlife habitat remains wild and healthy.”
These are all very sensible proposals. However, conservatives are already lining up in opposition. Can a bill like this get 60 votes? Possible. Given the popularity of lands bills in the east, it's possible that the New England Republicans will vote for it. The money isn't really that great; conservatives are attacking the Valles Caldera project for instance, but that's already government land that it is losing money on under its current designation.
The Senate has been pathetic the last two years, but it's trying to redeem itself a tiny bit before the crazies take over the House. This would be a nice addition to its accomplishments.