1998 Scorecard Vote
The Owyhee Canyonlands of Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon are known for their extensive wildlife and their wilderness recreation opportunities. Pronghorn, sage grouse, mule deer, cougar, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, redband trout, and the largest free-roaming herd of bighorn sheep in the continental U.S. live in the region. The canyonlands contain more than 300 miles of pristine rivers, all candidates for "wild and scenic" designation, and 24 areas now considered for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) added language to the Defense Authorization bill, S. 2057, that would transfer 12,000 acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands from the Bureau of Land Management to the Air Force for a supersonic combat bombing range--despite the availability of training ranges nearby. The provision would authorize thousands of flights every year, sending low-level subsonic and supersonic fighter jets and heavy bombers over this remarkable area, scattering thousands of flares and clouds of radar-jamming aluminum, and generating daily sonic booms in an area known for its solitude and unspoiled character.
The plan would also bypass the usual environmental reviews of such a proposal, including public comment. The net result could set a bad precedent and cause irreversible environmental damage to the Owyhee Canyonlands, with air, water, and noise pollution expected to fan out across some three million acres.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) offered an amendment to strike the bombing range proposal from the Defense Authorization bill. On June 25, 1998, the Senate approved Sen. Kempthorne's motion to table (kill) the Reid amendment, 49 - 44. NO is the pro-environment vote. The Senate subsequently passed S. 2057.