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April 19, 2012

Republicans Proposing Anti-Parks Legislation

Here's an L.A. Times story that says House Republicans are backing legislation that would give Homeland Security "the right to conduct any activity or construct any facility required to secure the border" on land managed by the Departments of Interior or Agriculture within 100 miles of the border. It won't have the same power over military or postal service land. Interior includes the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Agriculture includes the National Forests. Exceptions are carved out for federal land used for "mining, livestock grazing and timber harvesting." "The bill will override 36 federal laws that protect cultural and historic sites, wildlife and valued landscapes."

The bill would, for example, allow Homeland Security to build a giant electronic monitoring facility on top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park, if it thought it needed such a thing. But it would not allow Homeland Security to turn the Eagle Mountain iron mine into a landfill, because that's private property. The article says that Homeland Security would be empowered "to suspend any federal law," but that's not correct. The bill includes a list of specific environmental laws that Homeland Security could suspend.

The proposal would affect 54 National Parks. The article doesn't provide a count of National Forests and other federal lands that would be affected.

Text of HR 1505, the "National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act" is here. Here's the list of environmental laws that Homeland Security would be authorized to ignore:

  • the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
  • the Endangered Species Act of 1973
  • the Federal Water Pollution Control Act
  • the National Historic Preservation Act
  • the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • the Clean Air Act
  • the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979
  • the Safe Drinking Water Act
  • the Noise Control Act of 1972
  • the Solid Waste Disposal Act
  • the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980
  • Public Law 86-523
  • the Act of June 8, 1906 (commonly known as the "Antiquities Act of 1906")
  • the Act of August 21, 1935
  • the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • the Farmland Protection Policy Act
  • the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972
  • the Wilderness Act
  • the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
  • the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966
  • the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
  • the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, subchapter II of chapter 5, and chapter 7, of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the "Administrative Procedure Act")
  • the Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
  • sections 102(29) and 103 of California Desert Protection Act of 1994
  • the National Park Service Organic Act
  • Public Law 91-383
  • sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
  • the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990
  • section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899
  • the Act of June 8, 1940
  • Public Law 95-341
  • Public Law 103-141
  • the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974
  • and the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960.

You can see that this includes some of the most basic environmental legislation that has protected our homeland since the 19th century.

If this bill were really aimed at national security, then it would extend these powers to include BLM grazing and mining land, as well has National Forests where timber is being harvested. The bill is sponsored by Representative Bob Bishop of Utah. While Utah has scads of National Parks and even more scads of other protected federal land, none of it is within 100 miles of the border, so none of it would be affected by this bill.

Coalition of National Park Service Retirees Chair Maureen Finnerty says:

This legislative proposal is perhaps the most direct assault on national parks ever to be advanced at any level in any Congress in U.S. history. It threatens to literally stop all enforcement of several landmark environmental and conservation laws that NPS uses to manage and protect the National Park System and to serve millions of park visitors. The outrage here is that national parks and other U.S. crown jewels could end up being trashed in the name of achieving national security gains that are fictitious.

The Obama administration opposes the bill: "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified on March 8, 2012, that the bill 'is unnecessary, and it's bad policy.'"

The official statement of Customs & Border Protection (part of Homeland Security) to the House Committee reviewing this bill is available here.

CBP [Customs and Border Protection] enjoys a close working relationship with the Department of Interior (DOI) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows us to fulfill our border enforcement responsibilities while respecting and enhancing the environment. We respect the missions of these agencies, and we recognize the importance of preserving the American landscape. Our agencies have formed a number of agreements that allow us to carry out both of these missions. CBP believes that efforts to reduce the number of illegal aliens crossing the border have lessened environmental degradation and have assisted with recovery of damaged resources, and we are fully committed to continuing our cooperative relationships with DOI and USDA to further this good work.

Filed under California | permalink | April 19, 2012 at 06:30 AM

Comments

Representative Gary Miller (R) from Diamond Bar equates National Parks with "flies, rats and weeds."

Posted by: Ron's Log at Apr 21, 2012 9:18:34 AM

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