Today the IPAA responded to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, which passed through Senate on Sunday. The measure -- a collection of about 160 bills -- would confer the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would be designated as wilderness. In addition, the bill would designate the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton in Hope, Ark., as a national historic site and expand protections for dozens of national parks, rivers and water resources. By a 66-12 vote, with only 59 needed to limit debate, lawmakers on Sunday agreed to clear away hurdles despite partisan disputes that had threatened pledges by leaders to work cooperatively as the new Obama administration takes office. Supporters hope the House will follow suit. “We are disappointed in the Senate’s decision to pass S. 22, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009...The multiple-use of federal lands is the backbone of federal land management in the West, and the areas identified in S. 22 are already effectively protected. Congress should find ways to encourage, not discourage, the production of America’s resources on these areas," said Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in the statement. At a time when recession and job losses are the biggest concern in the nation, the decision to pass a land-protection act is coming at an interesting time. I am not partial to drilling in beautiful places like Mount Hood, whose glorious peaks took my breath away in 2005, or the Rocky Mountain National Park, where I hiked and camped with my sister and friends in 2007. But it does seem to me that at least a fraction of the land that is to be protected could be used to discover resources at a time when the economy is hurting. Our land is beautiful and should be kept as pristine as possible. But it seems that the biggest concern in these times should be developing more environmentally-friendly ways to develop our resources, not putting an end to development altogether.
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