U.S. House Approves Legislation That Would Toss Aside Environmental Laws Protecting National Parks

A package of bills that would toss aside environmental laws and regulations protecting a number of national parks passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, though its prospects in the Senate were unclear.

The package, if it managed to become law, would give the U.S. Border Patrol wide-ranging access to lands managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and other federal lands that lie within 100 miles of an international border.

Parks that fall within that 100-mile swath include Big Bend, Isle Royale, Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Glacier, North Cascades, Voyageurs, Virgin Islands, Olympic, Redwoods, Channel Islands, and all the national seashores.

Environmental laws and regulations set aside by one piece of the package, H.R. 1505, include The Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Fish and Wildlife Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the National Parks and Recreation Act, among others.

"This is just one more example of the House attempting to push something through the Congress that is extreme and an overreach," David Moulton, senior legislative director for The Wilderness Society, told the Traveler on Tuesday evening. "I think we can beat it in the Senate, but we have to keep up the pressure.”

The House vote was 232-188. Sixteen Democrats voted for the bill, while 19 Republicans opposed it. Whether the Senate takes up the measure is unclear. Currently, there is no companion bill in the Senate, where rules could make it difficult to move a stand-alone bill. However, said Mr. Moulton, a senator could try to amend the package to a "must-pass bill," such as an appropriations measure or transportation bill.

The Wilderness Society official said if the measure somehow became law, it "would allow road building, construction and development on lands that are loved for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. This vote was not in the best interest of the people who enjoy the land for its natural beauty.”

The main architect of H.R. 1505 was U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who long has sought to free the U.S. Border Patrol from observing environmental laws in its bid to secure the country's borders.

"This legislation is the right thing for this country," the Republican said earlier Tuesday in a release. "At the end of the day, this matter is far too important to go unaddressed and shoring up these trafficking corridors will help close the gaps that are preventing us from having a truly secure border."

General Accounting Office reports, however, have struck down Rep. Bishop's contention that environmental regulations are hamstringing the Border Patrol.

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have launched a website called DRONEZONE that allows Americans to look at national, state, and even Congressional district maps to see if they live or could potentially visit this expanded DHS patrol area.

“This is theater of the absurd,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, the Ranking Member of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. “Republicans have wanted to gut these laws for decades, and each excuse seems to get a little flimsier. They’re not afraid to invent new reasons to get their way, and when those run out they just use the old ones again. The days of scaring everyone by shouting ‘national security’ are long over, and Republicans would do everyone a favor by admitting it.”

Comments

We have two Democratic candidates who will square off in primary elections next Tuesday. One of them will be running against Rob Bishop in November.

But given the almost complete lock that Republicans hold on Utah's voters, chances of either of them winning are slim.

Rep. Grijalva is absolutely correct. It is theater of the absurd. But in Utah that is the normal state of things.

Here is a link to an article just out from the Salt Lake Tribune.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/54334367-90/agents-bishop-border-immigration.html.csp

Please reread the revised version of the bill that was voted on (it's very short), not the bill as orginally proposed and revise your article.

The committee revised the bill to apply to public lands within 100 miles from international land borders, not all international borders as initally proposed. While not ideal, it does reduce the amount of public lands that will be impacted including many of the ones you cited.

Anon--"Not ideal" is a curious phrase to apply to the part of the bill that applies to bogus border security. Within the 100-mile zone of the Canadian and Mexican border lie all or parts of 16 national parks with a combined acreage of more than 21.5 million acres. There are more than 142,500 acres of national seashores, and almost 494,000 acres of national monuments within that zone. Add the millions of acres of USFS and BLM lands and you are talking about a considerable amount of land that will be open to anything the Border Patrol wants to do--build roads, erect antennas, install forward operating bases--all without any environmental review since the bill revokes NEPA and without consultation with the Department of the Interior or of Agriculture since the Secretaries are prohibited from impeding the acitivities of the Border Patrol

All this at a time when all reliable reports say that illegal immigration is declining in the US and when the Border Patrol and the Secretary of Homeland Security say the bill is not needed. What a crock!

Rick

Well Rick, if the border patrol and Secretary of Homeland Security don't deam it necessary then it wouldn't appear they will build roads,antennas, etc.

Anon--That point of view discounts the fact that were another administration to assume office, there would be a different Secretary and a different Chief of the BP. It is better to work to assure that this kind of bill, with its false promises of increased border security, not be enacted by the Congress.

Rick

Rick, then those Secretary and Chief would think the law was necessary. Why would their opinion be less relevant - other than it doesn't support your opinion. And, while I too don't believe this is the most effective way to address the problem, I challenge you to prove these measures would be ineffective (I.e. are "false promises")

Anon, I visited Organ Pipe a couple of seasons ago and had opportunities to speak with three ORPI law enforcement rangers, the superintendent, four Border Patrol agents and one man who works in electronic information gathering for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

ALL of them told me that the capture rate for illegals crossing the border is HIGHER inside wilderness areas than on private lands elsewhere along the border. The reason seems simple enough. When they detect movement from their wide assortment of electronics, they can simply check wilderness permits with the appropriate agency (NPS or BLM) and if no permits pop up, they can be pretty sure it's something illegal and not a rancher rounding up cows or spreading manure. In fact, the DPS man commented that we'd be better off if we turned all the border lands into wilderness.

Speaking of spreading manure -- our Representative Rob Bishop (Utah 1st Congressional District) -- is an expert at that. He's the one pushing this stupidity in Congress. I can assure you that given Rob's record of anti-environmental blathering, this has very little to do with "security" and much more to do with handing the west over to a wider array of land developers and extractive industries. Privatization is one of Rob's favorite words. Despite being a chronic twister of facts and inventor of even more falsehoods, Mr. Bishop has the magic letter R beside his name on ballots. In Utah, that is enough to be elected without question. But there is some hope this year. Many more sensible Utahns seem to be waking up and we have a couple of excellent opponents standing up to Robby.


this has very little to do with "security" and much more to do with handing the west over to a wider array of land developers and extractive industries.


Yes, thats why neither land development nor extractive industries are mention in the bill at all. Lee - you see Bishop raping the land in your own shadow.

This bill is just one small step in a larger set of objectives.

So, Mr. Anonymous, care to come out of your own shadow and declare your own personal vested interest?

I have suggestion regarding anonymous posters. Whether we agree with their comments or not they should all be ignored. The latest anonymous on the House bill could be a paid staffer for Representative Bishop. Others on the mountain bike issue may be paid by the mountain bike industry. Some may have legitimate concerns for their safety or employment, but whatever the reason if they don't have the courage to identify themselves stay off the website or be ignored.

Thanks, Roger. Or at least provide some background to explain their stances. Full disclosure is a fine idea. It can be provided without having to disclose personal identity.

Of course, some of these anons could simply be trolls, too.

My personal vested interest? I am a legal American citizen concerned with people entering this country illegally. I am not on Bishop's staff, I don't live in Utah, I don't work for the mountain bike industry, not that any of those would make a difference.

Rick and Lee:

Suggest reading "Worth Fighting For" for some reasons that some of us, not completely taken in by ideology, prefer to remain anonymous, for now.

I can tell everyone what's happened on newspaper blogs that switched from anonymous posting to requiring everyone to post via Facebook, which in turn requires people's real names.

Debate dried up. Discussions arising out of articles on contentious issues went from hundreds of comments to five or six.

And those five or six have tended to be so devoid of any spark that they might as well be the recorded proceedings of the Saskatchewan cosmetology permit appeals board. (Actually, where could I find those minutes for some excellent evening reading?)

I for one would not post under my own name. Why not? If for no other reason than that my boss, or my next boss, or the one after that, or the one after that, might be a Sierra Club or Wilderness Society devotee who thinks that a wheel in a Wilderness would be the work of the devil (the viewpoint of many on these pages, I might add). He or she could find my posts and decide not to hire me or keep me on staff if I'm already there. Simple as that.

Of course if Kurt wants to give it a try, it's his website.

But what if people were honest and would disclose and conflicts of interest? That would help. But it's probably too much to realistically expect.

Heck, even our legislators won't do that. If they didn't have the ability to hide their motives and sources of funding, people might even stop electing them.

Lee, if people would look past the horrid PC soundbite and get real, well, more are. Reality IS sinking in. That's what eventually drives the politicos. What they can get away with:)!

I personally don't have any conflicts of interest, including any financial ones, as regards any of my posts. I am merely a mountain biker with a job that has nothing to do with the outdoors in any respect. Because the mountain biking "industry" is so small and so lacking in influence, it's hard to imagine anyone else having a conflict of interest either. We're not talking about Big Pharma or Big Oil here.

Frankly, if someone employed by the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, PEER, etc., posts on here, I wouldn't view that as a conflict of interest. It's not as though such a person would stand to gain financially (except maybe in a nominal sense) from expressing his/her point of view even if it dovetails with the organization he/she works for. I would think that would be true of someone who works for a bicycle company too: any financial gain from increased trail access within national parks or Wilderness areas would be, I would think, fairly tangential or incidental.

I don't want to see Kurt change things. There are indeed folks who need to protect their employment, although I think that there are more who flatter themselves with the aura of martyrdom of that stance. I reserve the right to judge harshly and discount the opinions of those who, in my personal opinionated opinion, sound like undeclared lobbyists, PR spokeswhores, or similar. A picadore or a troll is, after all, a picadore or a troll. They certainly aren't fooling anybody.

Rick, picadores and trolls may not fool everyone, but they might from time to time, fool the more gullible.

Unfortunately, the picadores and trolls who inhabit the halls of Congress and too many state legislatures seem to find some very effective ways of fooling people into voting for them over and over again.

I too, agree with you Rick in supporting Kurt's policy on here. I do ask the question to you and Lee as to what you are a troll for (your description). Would you have brought up issues like the Indian Trader Scandal that destroyed real living history or the case of the much honored ranger that had his career destroyed for doing what was right. The often religous ferver that is apparent at times in defending these wild places sometimes hides some particularly troubling personal traits and when combined with a chain of command that are willingly or against their will, participate for their careers sake.

I am not a "troll" for any industry or government agency but I try to encourage the opportunity for individuals to experience the freedoms that both contribute to breakthroughs in the personal realm. When you put the worst of either's contributions (industry and governemnt) it would be difficult to tell which is worse for individuals, I believe.

There is a third rail out there of public sensibilities that, I believe, will be apparent and present to pick up the pieces of acrimony. Even the "trolls" will understand that something good is afoot, I hope.

Hey Lee, with all your inflamatory, trollish descriptions of Utah Residents do you include Orin Hatch in your diatribes. I'm the one that mentioned the third rail of honorable people that are waiting to pick up the pieces while you and Bishop are mud wrestling. Majority of Utah Residents support Senator Hatch, a great American and I believe a friend of the National Parks in a way that strengthens the Republic.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/54364398-90/hatch-spent-senate-campaign.html.csp

Gee, anon, Orrin has you fooled, too?

Orrin's victory in the primary was bought by huge amounts of special interest and SuperPAC dollars. His TV commercials ran every three minutes on Utah TV stations. Robocalls jammed our telephones. Voter turnout at the primary was the usual pathetically small percentage of eligible voters -- and most were probably right-wing fanatics. The choice was between two equally poor choices. We'll see what happens in November when Hatch must face off with a highly respected former Utah state senator. But even then, it will be an almost impossible task for Scott Howell to avoid being buried completely by Hatch's enormous financial backing from people like the Koch Brothers and others whose primary interest is profit and dominion over the rest of us. Unfortunately, Rob Bishop enjoys the same kind of advantage over his opposition.

If that is inflammatory, then so be it.

The "starve children and kill old people" talking points are alive in the Parks discussion. At no time in my life have I felt the importance of getting past the temptation. Pretty sobering environment we are in especially with the leadership that pushes the most dysfunctional buttons in the human condition. Long live the Parks (and the country).

Good old Orrin. Per the ontheissues.com research website:

Orrin Hatch on the environment:

  • Limit National Monuments to 50,000 acres. (Feb 1998)

  • Voted NO on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Aug 2009)

  • Voted YES on prohibiting eminent domain for use as parks or grazing land. (Dec 2007)

  • Voted YES on confirming Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior. (Jan 2001)

  • Voted YES on more funding for forest roads and fish habitat. (Sep 1999)

  • Voted YES on transportation demo projects. (Mar 1998)

  • Voted NO on reducing funds for road-building in National Forests. (Sep 1997)

  • Voted NO on continuing desert protection in California. (Oct 1994)

  • Voted YES on requiring EPA risk assessments. (May 1994)

  • Rated 5% by the LCV, indicating anti-environment votes. (Dec 2003)

  • Rated 20% by HSLF, indicating an anti-animal welfare voting record. (Jan 2012)

  • Congress should decide land use, not DOI. (Sep 1979)

Orrin Hatch on Energy & Oil:

  • Eliminate Kyoto Accords and implement more local control. (Jan 2000)

  • Revoke Kyoto Accords as environmental extremism. (Dec 1999)

  • Supports alternative fuels to meet EPA air standards. (May 1999)

  • Focus on market incentives to foster alternative fuels. (May 1999)

  • Tax credits for electric cars, alternative fuels & stations. (May 1999)

  • Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)

  • Voted YES on protecting middle-income taxpayers from a national energy tax. (Apr 2009)

  • Voted YES on requiring full Senate debate and vote on cap-and-trade. (Apr 2009)

  • Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (Jun 2008)

  • Voted NO on addressing CO2 emissions without considering India & China. (May 2008)

  • Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jun 2007)

  • Voted YES on making oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal. (Jun 2007)

  • Voted NO on factoring global warming into federal project planning. (May 2007)

  • Voted NO on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's ANWR. (Nov 2005)

  • Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)

  • Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)

  • Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)

  • Voted YES on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)

  • Voted NO on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)

  • Voted NO on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)

  • Voted YES on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)

  • Voted YES on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)

  • Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)

  • Voted NO on ending discussion of CAFE fuel efficiency standards. (Sep 1999)

  • Voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy. (Jun 1999)

  • Voted YES on approving a nuclear waste repository. (Apr 1997)

  • Voted NO on do not require ethanol in gasoline. (Aug 1994)

  • Rated 17% by the CAF, indicating opposition to energy independence. (Dec 2006)

  • Develop technology for carbon dioxide sequestration. (Feb 2008)

  • Open the Outer Continental Shelf for oil & gas leasing. (Jun 2008)

I didn't pick and choose to support my dislike for the man - the list above has some stuff I agree with, but far and away I find him NOT friend of the parks or the environment.

Looks like a pretty good record to me. Want to pick one and debate?

Not a chance. I've got a life in the real world. You have a spiffy day now.

Does being a "friend" of the Parks exclude "tough love," transparency, character, virtue or has the definition changed as the culture has drifting into PC paralysis that hastens decline?

‎"Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles."Unknown author