Lovers of Bend's Badlands Wilderness who have been waiting for years to see it designated as a federally protected wilderness area will have to wait a little longer: Congress won't be able to get around to it during the current lame-duck session.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) put out a press release this morning saying the Senate leadership had announced that Congress will be too busy during the short session to deal with the Omnibus Public Lands bill, a package that contains some 150 bills, including the Oregon Badlands and Spring Basin Wilderness Acts.
"We are obviously deeply disappointed that we will not be able to celebrate Badlands and Spring Basin being signed into law this year," said ONDA Executive Director Brent Fenty, "but we appreciate that Senator [Harry] Reid [the Senate majority leader] has said he will bring this important conservation measure to a vote as part of the package early in the new Congress."
Reid promised that the lands bill would be reintroduced as the "first or second" action by Congress when it reconvenes in January and could be placed quickly on the Senate calendar without having to go back through committee, according to ONDA.
The Badlands and Spring Basin areas comprise some 40,000 acres. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the bills designating them as wilderness in mid-September, but the Senate hasn't been able to get around to bringing them to the floor for a vote - not surprising, with the economy collapsing and everybody from General Motors to Bill's Bait & Tackle Shop coming to Washington for a bailout.
BTW, the ONDA website has put up a nice tribute to Bulletin outdoor writer and Badlands lover Jim Witty, who died suddenly last weekend at the age of 50. Jim's family has suggested that donations in his memory be made to ONDA, and there's a link on the ONDA site to another secure site where you can contribute.