Negotiations in Washington County, Utah, led to protection of more desert, mountains and rivers -- and an authorization to sell 5,000 to 9,000 acres of federal land near St. George, to allow the city room to grow. Some locals had called for selling 20,000 acres or more, but environmentalists whittled it down. The deal was sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Bennett and supported by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

National groups such as The Wilderness Society pushed the Omni package, though they disagreed with some details. Montana's Wilderness Watch, a small, purist group, complained that the Idaho and Utah deals "contain numerous harmful provisions that would open these areas to inappropriate activities such as the routine use of ATVs for herding livestock ... and habitat manipulation by state fish and game agencies."

Carrying out some of the terms will cost billions, and governments and private donors are expected to provide funding over the next 10 to 15 years. Uncertainties remain, but even so, the Omni package inspires many people who are working on more Western conservation deals. It also gives a much-needed lift to folks tired of partisan divides.

Omni highlights

16.8 miles of Fossil Creek named wild and scenic
New federal study for solving water issues around San Pedro River

750,000 acres of wilderness (deserts, mountains, giant redwoods)
Nearly 100 miles of wild and scenic rivers
San Joaquin River restoration, reducing farmers' water to rebuild salmon runs

316,000 acres of wilderness (canyons and mountains)
New Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (red cliffs, petroglyphs and desert bighorns)
South Park National Heritage Area to help preserve working ranches
Programs to preserve cultural mix in San Luis Valley and open space along Front Range

517,000 acres of wilderness     (Owyhee deserts and canyons)
316 miles of Owyhee River system named wild and scenic
New science center devoted to livestock grazing

Additional $1 million per year to compensate ranchers for wolf problems (not limited to Montana)

More than 600 federal acres sold or given away for various purposes, including a new cancer treatment center
Study of Cold War sites that could become national landmarks

New Mexico
16,000 acres of wilderness (canyon country)
Added protections for dinosaur tracks and a cave formation
Pipeline from San Juan River to deliver water to the Navajo
Pipeline from Ute Reservoir to eastern New Mexico cities

204,000 acres of wilderness (deserts, forests, Mount Hood, wildflower meadows)
92 miles of wild and scenic rivers

256,000 acres of wilderness (canyon country)
Two new national conservation     areas to help preserve desert tortoise
165 miles of Virgin River system named wild and scenic

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail (highlighting how floods shaped parts of the Northwest landscape)
Pacific Northwest Trail (1,200 miles from Rockies to Pacific coast)

1.2 million acres of Bridger-Teton National Forest off-limits to future oil and gas drilling
Provisions for buyouts of existing leases in that area
387 miles of Snake River headwaters named wild and scenic