Eye on Washington

Eye on Washington logoIn Congress: 

Good News!!! Six years of NEC’s close involvement with Congressman Huffman and a wide coalition of conservationists resulted in an important success. The Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act,  H.R. 2250, passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee in what is referred to as a “mark-up” hearing on November 20 with a 22-11 bipartisan vote.

H.R. 2250 has been a priority concern for the NEC and members have been working on this legislation with a coalition of conservationists for six years. Congressman Huffman worked tirelessly with communities, local businesses, and conservationists to craft a bill that will designate over 270 miles of Wild and Scenic River waterways in northwest California including the Eel River, the South Fork and East Fork North Trinity Rivers, Redwood Creek, Canyon Creek, and many tributaries. The bill will also add over 200,000 acres to designated wilderness and over 700,000 acres of working forests into targeted reforestation efforts. The bill promotes cooperative efforts to continued restoration of the clear-cut lands now within Redwood National and State Parks and boosts the local outdoor recreation economy by mandating coordinated recreation planning among federal land managers and creation of the long-distance Bigfoot National Recreation Trail.

This bill was one of three similar bills that increase wilderness and wild and scenic river designations on lands and waters under the management of
federal agencies.

Congressman Huffman wrote: “The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act is focused on a future for Northwest California where public lands are restored and protected, the outdoor recreation economy continues to grow, and rural communities can thrive.”

The next step is a vote by the full House of Representatives. The date of that vote has not yet been set. Senator Kamala Harris has already begun the process in the U.S. Senate by introducing identical legislation to Huffman’s bill. It is unknown whether action will take place in the Senate this year, but the NEC is working hard to keep this important bill moving forward and looks forward to it becoming law.

Economic Policy and Natural Resource Impacts: 

Supporters of the current administration frequently point to the healthy state of the U.S. economy under this President. Indeed, many economists are quick to agree that unemployment is down and those who can afford to risk money in stocks are happy with the general trend of the stock market. Of course, there are good economists who correctly point to some weaknesses in that analysis, but overall economists agree; the U.S. economy is healthy. Conservationists, however, should be asking at what cost? When regulations, especially in the form of environmental regulations, are loosened or removed from energy developers and producers, timber management, and manufacturing, those businesses generally then produce more profit. That profit comes from disregard for clean air, water, endangered species protections and a host of other environmental concerns that are being diminished primarily by Executive Orders coming from the White House and agency heads, not from new laws.  Why is that important? That means we may be looking at a false economy. Short-term economic boosts will be paid for in the costs of our children’s health and costs of restoring eroded lands and toxic air and water. So next time you hear how we should appreciate the better economy and more jobs, realize that is a temporary benefit and the costs will be paid eventually at the expense of generations to come.

From the White House: 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the primary agency in charge of setting guidelines for clean water, air, etc., and enforcement of environmental regulations—wants to make it more difficult for federal agencies to use the best science to guide decisions. With the cleverly worded “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” the EPA is continuing a false narrative knowing full well that if the policy is adopted it will harm—not help—environmental protections. The policy would require scientists to turn over all raw data, including confidential medical data, before the study can be used in decision-making. Some studies are proprietary (essentially copyrighted) by states or academic institutions. As a result, some of the most robust and important studies would not be able to be used in developing clean air, water, and other environmental protection rules.

In the Courts: 

Drilling in the Arctic Ocean

But there are, in fact, limits on what a President can do with Executive Orders. In April, an Alaskan U.S. District court Judge, Sharon Gleason, ruled against President Trump saying his administration had “exceeded the president’s authority” by pushing for the drilling in over

120 million acres when he signed an executive order to allow offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.  Judge Gleason’s decision restores a ban on drilling in most of the U.S.-controlled Arctic Ocean. Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe said in a statement reported by the Associated Press, “The president cannot just trample on the constitution to do the bidding of his cronies in the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our oceans, wildlife and climate.”  Congressman Huffman introduced a bill to permanently ban drilling in the U.S. Arctic Ocean as well as most of the U.S.  Pacific and Atlantic coasts. These bills have not moved yet.

National Monuments

In another blow to President Trump’s agenda to drop protections on public lands, Federal Judge Chutkan ruled against the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss lawsuits that challenge the controversial reductions in acreage in both Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both in Utah. Unfortunately, this is a temporary success while the lawsuits proceed.