Saturday, January 25, 2014

DeFazio, Grijalva, and 107 Other House Dems Call on Interior to Protect More Public Lands

Yesterday, Representatives Pete DeFazio (OR-04) and Raul Grijalva (AZ-09) of the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell urging her to protect more land under the Antiquities Act. 107 other House Democrats co-signed the letter.

The 112th Congress, as the letter points out, was the first Congress in forty years to fail to permanently protect any of the nation's treasured landscapes. The track record of the current Congress (113th) is not looking particularly good either. The House Natural Resources Committee has held hearings for only eight of 37 land designation proposals offered this Congress, and only one has thus far passed.

The Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906 by Teddy Roosevelt, gives the president the authority to protect and conserve public lands through the issuance of executive orders. The president can designate "National Monuments" for preservation/conservation. "National Park" designation, however, must go through Congress and, consequently, takes more time.

In his first term, Obama had a pretty abysmal record at protecting public lands. Unless something radically changes, he will end up protecting fewer acres of public lands administratively than George W. Bush did.

Obama has been much more willing to open lands up for oil and gas drilling:

Here is the text of the Democrats' letter:
Dear Secretary Jewell:

We are writing in response to your recent comments about the Antiquities Act and your ongoing commitment to conservation and historic preservation on Federal land. Only Congress has the authority to establish National Parks, Forests, and wilderness areas, but there is a long tradition of the conservation initiatives spearheaded by the President.

Since the 1906 passage of the Antiquities Act, Presidents have had the authority to establish National Monuments. This is an important tool that has led to the protection of some our most iconic landscapes and valuable cultural resources, including the Grand Canyon and the recently enacted Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument. Some initiatives require Presidential leadership and should not be bogged down by political infighting and paralysis, increasingly common characteristics of Congress.

In today’s deeply partisan environment, it’s becoming nearly impossible for Congress to make critical conservation decisions.  The 112th Congress was the first Congress in 40 years that failed to permanently protect any of America’s treasured landscapes. The current Congress is on a path to repeat that abysmal record. There are 37 land designation bills sitting before Congress that have broad public support. Unfortunately, Congress is failing to act.  The House Natural Resources Committee has only held hearings on 8 of these proposals and only one has moved beyond markup and passed the House. With only 121 legislative days scheduled for 2014, the time to act is running out. Many of these proposals are excellent candidates for an Antiquities Act designation by the President.

On April 16, 2013, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on a suite of bills designed to dilute the Presidential authority outlined in the Antiquities Act. The theme of the hearing was overreach with a strong emphasis placed on the need to make the National Monument process more inclusive by requiring Congressional approval. As you know, Congress already has the opportunity to take the lead but is choosing to shun this role. Conservation and historic preservation initiatives with broad public support should not have to be sidelined or stalled because of political paralysis. Gateway communities throughout the country benefit from Federal conservation efforts; resources are protected, visitor experience is enhanced, and local economies are enhanced. At National Parks alone, visitors spend more than $35 million per day. Our most significant resources deserve our attention.

Again, we are encouraged by your enthusiasm, and we look forward to your leadership to help identify appropriate sites for conservation and preservation. When Congress is unable to advance conservation legislation, the importance of the Antiquities Act is increasingly apparent.

15 of the voting members of the House Committee on Natural Resources signed the letter: Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06)
Grace Napolitano (CA-38)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-07)
Jim Costa (CA-20)
Niki Tsongas (MA-03)
Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)

Only two voting Democratic members of HCNR did not sign: Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) and Steven Horsford (NV-04).

Here are the rest of the co-signers:

Mike Thompson (CA-05)
Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
George Miller (CA-11)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Lois Capps (CA-24)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
Adam Schiff (CA-28)
Henry Waxman (CA-33)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
John B. Larson (CT-01)
Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Kathy Castor (FL-14)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
Frederica Wilson (FL-24)
Hank Johnson (GA-04)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Bobby L. Rush (IL-01)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Brad Schneider (IL-10)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
John Sarbanes (MD-03)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Dan Kildee (MI-05)
Sander Levin (MI-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Betty McCollum (MN-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Diana Titus (NV-01)
Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02)
Michelle Luan Grisham (MN-01)
Ben Lujan (NM-03)
Tim Bishop (NY-01)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Joseph Crowley (NY-14)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Louise Slaughter (NY-25)
David Price (NC-04)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
David Ciciline (RI-01)
Jim Langevin (RI-02)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Denny Heck (WA-10)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Gwen Moore (WI-04)
Donna Christensen (VI)

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