November 13, 2008

Controversial Provisions of Senate’s Omnibus Lands Bill

Identified by New Congressional Research Service Report

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress has released an analysis of the omnibus lands bill that the Senate is currently scheduled to take up the week of November 17. The report, “The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008: Senate Amendment 5662 as Submitted on September 26, 2008,” outlines some of the controversial provisions within the omnibus. Due to the sheer size of the lands package—it contains over 140 individual bills, authorizes $4.38 billion in spending, and is more than 1,082 pages in length—more than 15 CRS experts were needed to prepare the analysis.

Despite the claims of proponents that the omnibus lands bill is non-controversial, the term “controversial” appears 37 separate times in the CRS report to describe various provisions throughout the bill. Proponents also claim the bill does not cost anything, yet the term “cost” appears 26 times and “expensive” is mentioned twice.

The CRS report notes other potential problems with the bill, such as:

  • Adding restrictions that are unnecessary and “harmful to local economies;”

  • Establishing at least four initiatives that duplicate existing programs;

  • Restricting access to natural resources, including oil and gas;

  • Limiting domestic energy development;

  • Authorizing programs that are “inappropriate for the federal government” or that “provide little value for federal dollars expended.”

  • Removing public areas from multiples uses, such as recreation and livestock grazing;

  • Withdrawing land from mining claims and mineral leases;

  • Providing additional authority to the government to take over more privately owned land;

  • Compromising local water rights and water resource management;

  • Building a questionable road through a refuge with “high ecological value;”

  • Removing taxable land from local communities;

  • Increasing the administrative and financial obligations of the National Park Service at a time when the agency is unable to meet its current obligations;

  • Increasing spending on projects considered to be lower priorities;

  • Waiving the sovereign immunity of the United States to allow lawsuits against the government; and

  • Creating new bureaucracy.
The full summary of the eight-page CRS Report can be found here.