The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Several Cubin Bills Included in Larger Omnibus Legislation
Several pieces of legislation authored or cosponsored by Congresswoman Cubin have been sent to the President's desk as a part of a sixty-one bill legislative package, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739). While this omnibus bill contained a number of positive measures for Wyoming, it was also riddled with a wide array of provisions that threatened private property rights, expanded existing or created new Wilderness Areas or National Heritage Areas, and added an additional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. For those reasons, Representative Cubin joined 116 of her House colleagues in opposing the behemoth legislative package.
Representative Cubin commented, "It was unfortunate I had to vote against this bill because of the tactics used by Democrats to cram a ton of bad policy on the backs of a few good proposals." In total the omnibus bill's provisions will cost American taxpayers roughly $380 million over the next 5 years.
One of the more controversial bills included within the omnibus package is H.R. 319, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground act, which creates a new national heritage area comprising 175 miles of land bridging four eastern states. This bill allows a few environmentalists and wealthy land owners to have a huge influence over a large amount of private property. The National Center for Public Policy Research referred to H.R. 319 as "the Kelo decision and earmarks rolled into one," referencing the 2006 Supreme Court case granting local governments broad power to seize property from private citizens.
The legislative package also included the Wild Sky Wilderness Act (H.R. 886), a bill to designate 106,000 acres in the state of Washington as Wilderness. This designation was made despite the fact that the U.S. Forest Service has declared about 15% of these lands as inappropriate for a wilderness designation because they include "previously harvested and roaded areas, private land and vital roads."
The large omnibus bill also includes such ill-advised acts as purchasing a large amount of land around Carl Sandberg's home (which is already a historic site), and allowing condemnation of private lands in order to create a new twenty five mile Wild and Scenic River in south-central Connecticut.
By far the most egregious action taken by S.2739, however, is the addition of a new Delegate to the House of Representatives, representing the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
(CNMI). "Such action demonstrates the dangerous reality that exists when so many bills are added into one enormous omnibus bill, which prohibits consideration of each provision individually. Adding a new Delegate brings with it significant concerns on the composition of the U.S. House and should not have been hidden within a so-called public lands bill," Representative Cubin stated.
The above examples offer simply a handful of reasons why Representative Cubin could not in good conscience support S. 2739 despite those provisions benefitting our state.
Several bills that Representative Cubin authored and cosponsored were also included in the omnibus package.
One such measure was a bill Representative Cubin authored, which awards the elevated status of federal designation to Jackson's National Museum of Wildlife Art. As Representative Cubin has stated many times, "This popular museum is truly a treasure of the Cowboy Sate. It certainly deserves the prestigious status that federal designation offers. The passage of this bill means that the National Museum of Wildlife will join an elite group of less than twenty nationally designated museums. Getting this designation across the finish line represents a proud day for residents of Wyoming."
Another bill, which was cosponsored by Representative Cubin in the House, is H.R. 658, the Natural Resources Protection Cooperative Act. This measure authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with various local entities to address such issues as noxious weeds on public lands. This allows local experts to have greater participation in common-sense oversight of federal lands.
A third bill included in S. 2739, also cosponsored by Representative Cubin, is the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program and Pathfinder Modification Authorization Act. Simply put, the bill codifies an already existing, tri-state cooperative agreement between the states of Wyoming, Montana and Colorado dealing with habitat protection along the central and lower basins of the Platte River. Without this legislation, the Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that it would be forced to seek the acquisition of additional 101,000 acre-feet of water annually out of the Glendo Reservoir for species recovery purposes.
Despite these positive measures, several national groups lambasted all or some portions of S. 2739 for increasing the size and scope of government, while simultaneously restricting uses on public lands. Such critics included the Property Rights Alliance, the American Land Rights Association, the Heritage Foundation and the National Center for Public Policy.
"Digging through this omnibus package was like fishing in the Potomac," Cubin concluded. "You may hook a gem every once in a while, but most of what you catch just isn't suitable for the dinner table."