House swings for the fences on public lands rollbacks…and hits a single

Now that the dust has settled on Capitol Hill and Members of Congress are well into their President’s Day work weeks, we are beginning to get a sense of where things are heading as the Senate prepares to take up the Continuing Appropriations Resolution next week.  But first, to recap what happened last week that led to the Continuing Resolution being dubbed “one of the worst environmental bills” to ever come under consideration in Congress:

On the list of bad public lands provisions in the bill, the worst for the redrock was language that would block the Bureau of Land Management’s ‘Wild Lands’ policy – before it had even been finalized!  Unfortunately, there was little to be done about this provision since it was included in the original bill text by anti-wilderness appropriations committee chairs.  However, the other two major threats to the redrock either failed or were withdrawn.

One amendment, offered by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and eventually withdrawn, would have defunded the National Landscape Conservation System – the department within the BLM that administers national monuments, wilderness study areas and other important conservation lands.  This would have effectively closed those places to the public since all funding for staff and management would cease.

Reps. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) offered another terrible amendment to block the use of the Antiquities Act (the bill that allowed past presidents to protect such places as Arches, Zion, and Bryce) – and fortunately this one failed on a narrow 213-209 vote.  This is a major victory for our public lands on an otherwise environmentally destructive bill.  Please see how your Member of Congress voted on the Heller amendment and if they voted “nay” (the good way), then please thank them by using our action center!

As we move forward next week, we’re likely to see some more action on the ‘Wild Lands’ policy as the House Committee on Natural Resources makes it the topic of its first oversight hearing.  We’re expecting Chairmen Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Bishop to stack the decks against supporters of the policy, so we need you to participate by watching the hearing on the committee’s website and engaging with our social media team to show widespread support for the Utah’s redrock.

Finally, as the Senate takes up Continuing Resolution, we’re glad to hear Senate leadership standing firm in their commitment to not allow any policy making on the bill (which includes the ‘Wild Lands’ policy provision), so their final product will likely look distinctly different from the House’s.  There is rampant speculation now about the coming week’s high stakes game of political chicken as funding runs out for the federal government – and we hope and will work to ensure that the ‘Wild lands’ policy is not a chip in any deals made to keep the lights on.