The Omnibus Lands Bill: What's in it for Washington?
The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 was passed by the Senate in January. The 71-21 vote was a bipartisan victory for one of the largest public lands bills ever. A vote is expected in the House any day. The bill ties together some 160 separate proposals from across the country. But what's in it for Washington State?
The bill protects public lands in 32 states and the Virgin Islands, and designates 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states. The bill would also protect 39 Wild and Scenic Rivers from commercial development, adding up to 1,000 new miles of protected waterways in six states while also providing money to preserve coastal areas, study the effects of climate change, and designate 5,100 miles of scenic and historic trails across the country -- two of them in Washington.
The act designates the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail as a National Scenic Trail, a designation that should provide funding for maintenance programs. Crossing three National Parks and seven federal forests, the trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, passing through the Rocky Mountains, the Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, the North Cascades, the Olympic Mountains and the Washington coastline before ending in Cape Alva.
The act also authorizes the designation of the Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail which runs from Montana, through Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The trail follows the course of the cataclysmic floods which roared down the Columbia River drainage following the collapse of an ice dam, draining a massive lake the area the size of Lake Eire and Lake Ontario. The floods created the unique topography -- coulees, boulder fields, lakes and canyons -- in the Columbia Basin. The funding hopes to provide a series of interpretive centers along the route, as well as improvements to the interpretive center at Dry Falls.
Funding is also provided for a proposed fire and rescue station at Snoqualmie Pass.