26 Million Acres in Jeopardy
HR 2016 Up For Vote This Week
The House Natural Resource Committee has sent HR 2016, the National Landscape Conservation System bill, to the House floor and could be voted on as early as today. The measure would place 26 million acres under jurisdiction of the National Park Service in the 13 Western States, and could lead to the end of multiple-use on much of those lands.
The legislation codifies a system that former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt initiated in 2000. It includes 17 National Conservation Areas, 15 National Monuments, 38 Wild and Scenic Rivers, 161 Wilderness Acres, 5203 miles of National Scenic and Historic Trails, and 604 Wilderness Study Areas -- all in the 13 Western States. Not surprisingly, the bill sponsors are predominantly from the east, and no member from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah or Wyoming is cosponsors. These five states alone have 82% of the Wild and Scenic Rivers, 62% of the National Historic Trails, 45% of the Wilderness Study Areas, and 33% of the National Scenic Trails. Specifically, HR 2016 will:
1. Codify by statute the NLCS, adding an additional layer of bureaucracy to traditionally multi-use BLM lands in the restrictive fashion of the National Park Service.
2. Elevates “protecting the values for which the components of the system were designated,” above existing management requirements, placing a higher value on “landscape preservation” than what the existing law provides.
3. Elevates the purposes of “conserve, protect, restore” above other purposes.
4. Management requirements set forth in the bill are vague, opening an invitation for environmental groups to unduly influence how the lands will be managed.
5. Authorizes land managers to trump access rights and productive uses if viewed to conflict with “protecting the values” for which the land was designated.
6. Contains no provision where local governments can raise and address local impacts.
The Bush administration has shown no interest in protecting the multiple-use status of the 26 million acres either, as Interior Secretary Kempthorne’s staff was sent to testify in favor of the measure. The Senate has already passed the companion bill out of committee, where it is also waiting for a floor vote.
It is imperative to contact your Representative immediately asking them to vote against HR 2016. Any Congressman can be reached by calling 202-225-3121. Don’t delay. Remember, the bill could come up for a vote anytime this week, including today, so call immediately.