Federal Relations

March 26, 2009

Omnibus Lands Measure Ready for Obama’s Signature

The House yesterday passed HR 146, which contains more than 150 measures to designate more than 2 million acres of new wilderness areas, including wild and scenic rivers, historic sites, scenic trails and protected lands.  This should have been a non-controversial bill, but disagreement arose over the issue of gun rights in national parks. 

 The bill contains two measures that affect the state of Washington.  The first measure amends the National Trails System Act to designate the trail extending from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, Montana, to the Pacific Ocean coast in Olympic National Park, Washington, as the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.  The second measure allows Douglas County to purchase land currently owned by the federal government, but they must pay an amount equal to the appraised value of the land.  The proceeds will be deposited in the Federal Land Disposal Account and are to be used solely for improving access to public lands in the state of Washington.

 In addition to these measures, there are some interesting “add-ons” to the bill which may affect the university if it is eligible to participate in the research.  Under Section F:  Secure Water, the Secretary of Agriculture is allowed to enter into agreement with any university (among other organizations) to fund research on the conservation, increased efficiency, or enhancement of water management resources, including use of renewable energy in the management and delivery of water.   It also establishes an intragovernmental panel to work with research and nongovernmental organizations on the impact of climate change on the quantity and quality of US water resources.

 Title XII of the bill establishes: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Uundersea Research Program Act of 2009; the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009; and the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009. 

 Title XIV requires the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop mechanisms to coordinate paralysis research and rehabilitation activities to advance and avoid duplication of such activities.  This is titled the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act.

 The bill (H.R. 146) passed by a vote of 285-140 in the House.  The Senate version passed by a vote of 77-20 on March 19.