Part of what we do at Winter Wildlands Alliance is keep track of legislation in Congress that affects winter, public lands, and winter recreation on public lands. Of course, not every bill introduced into the House or Senate becomes law – it’s usually a long process with several checks and balances – but once legislation is introduced it’s important for the public to weigh in. So, take a look at what bills are out there and then contact your representatives in Congress and let them know what you think about any or all of them. Prefer to call? You can reach the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121. From there you can ask to be connected to any of your 3 representatives in their DC offices by sharing your zip code.
Bills We Support
Let’s start with the good news…
H.Res.195 is a resolution recognizing the importance of environmental stewardship and the urgency of the fight against climate change. This resolution was introduced by a handful of House Republicans and it’s really encouraging to see some bi-partisan support for fighting climate change. It has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment, which has yet to hold a hearing on the bill.
H.R.502 permanently re-authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most popular and successful conservation program. This bill continues to gain co-sponsors but the House Committee on Natural Resources has yet to hold a hearing on it.
S.1633/H.R.3400 (Recreation Not Red-Tape Act) is a bipartisan bill that will update processes and policies on our national public lands to improve the outdoor recreation experience. This bill aims to reduce barriers to outdoor recreation access, and improve public land management for Americans who enjoy skiing, climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, and paddling on public lands and waters. The Outdoor Alliance blog has a good overview of this legislation. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill October 3 and the bill passed out of committee on April 17, 2018. It has not moved past introduction in the Senate.
S.483/H.R.1285, the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, would designate more than 126,500 acres of the Olympic National Forest as Wilderness and designate 19 rivers and their major tributaries as Wild & Scenic. Both bills have been referred to the appropriate committees but no hearings have been held.
S.507, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act of 2017, would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas in Montana, designate new recreation areas for snowmobiling and mountain biking, and ensures the continuation of sustainable timber harvests outside of the protected areas. The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining. Hearings held a hearing on this bill on 2/7/18.
S.566, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, would protect approximately 340,000 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, including tons of great backcountry ski terrain, from new industrial-scale mine development. It passed through committee in late March and is awaiting a full vote in the Senate. This bill passed through committee in June and is awaiting a full vote in the Senate.
S. 751/H.R.2584, the National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017, is a bipartisan bill that would establish a fund dedicated to addressing the National Park Service’s nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog. The funds would come from mineral royalties that are not already dedicated to other purposes and would be used to address high priority deferred maintenance needs within the Park Service. Both bills have be introduced into their respective chambers, and the House bill has been referred to committee, but neither have received a hearing or a vote.
S.713/H.R.1791, the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act, would designate 1.5 million acres of public and private land from Seattle to Central Washington as a National Heritage Area. This designation would improve management of the area and promote economic growth and tourism in the region. The Senate bill passed through committee in late March and is awaiting a full vote in the Senate. The House approved it’s version on 6/24/18.
S.2130, the Outdoor Economy Act, would establish an Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee within the US Department of Interior. This committee would be required to include a representative from the human-powered recreation community.
The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act protects wild lands and recreation opportunities in Colorado’s Summit and Eagle Counties. This legislation designates new Wilderness, a Recreation Management Area in the Tenmile mountains, two Wildlife Conservation Areas, and the country’s first National Historic Landscape to protect public lands around Camp Hale, home of the WWII-era training grounds of the storied 10th Mountain Division.
S.569, The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act, amends the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to permanently authorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Public Land Heist
These bills all seek to undermine or eliminate public ownership or management of public lands, or target the environmental protections and multiple-use management that keep public lands safe, enjoyable, and accessible for the recreating public.
H.J.Res.46 (Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the National Park Service relating to “General Provisions and Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights”) would roll back the National Park Service’s authority to regulate private oil and gas drilling within National Parks. It was sent to the House Committee on Natural Resources in January but no hearings have been held.
H.R.622 (Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act) eliminates Forest Service and BLM law enforcement capabilities and puts local sheriff departments in charge of patrolling federal lands and enforcing land management regulations instead, even though local agencies generally lack the skills or resources to deal with issues that arise on public lands. This would leave millions of acres of public land vulnerable to abuse and severely compromise the safety of the recreating public. Even though the bill’s original sponsor, Jason Chaffetz, resigned from Congress in June the bill didn’t go with him. It’s now sponsored by his fellow Utahan, Representative Chris Stewart. It has not, however, had a hearing.
H.R.232 (State National Forest Management Act of 2017) would authorize state legislatures to purchase up to 2 million acres of land from the Forest Service for the purpose of timber production. Not only does this take public land out of public ownership, it would shift the management of these lands from multiple use (including recreation) to industrial forestry. This bill was Referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on 2/10/17 but no hearings have been held.
H.R.1349 would undermine the Wilderness Act by allowing wheeled and mechanized uses within designated Wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act is the strongest conservation tool available to protect public land from development and any attempts to change this law raises red flags for us. The House Committee on Natural Resources voted to pass this bill out of committee on 12/13/17. Next, the bill will go before the full House for a vote, so please contact your representative and tell them you do not support any attempt to change the Wilderness Act.
H.R. 2661 (State Mineral Revenue Protection Act) would amend the Mineral Leasing Act so that royalty payments from oil and gas development on federal lands are paid directly to the states. The House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Mineral and Energy Resources, held a hearing on this bill on 9/6/17 and passed the bill out of committee on 11/8/17. Now the bill is in front of the full House for a vote, so it’s important to contact your Representative and ask them to vote no.
H.R. 2907 (Planning for American Energy Act of 2017 ) would require the Interior Secretary to apply the concept of “sustained yield” — intended for renewable resources such as timber — to non-renewable resources such as oil, gas, coal, and uranium. The House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Mineral and Energy Resources, held a hearing on this bill on 9/6/17 and the committee voted to pass the bill on 118/16. Now the bill is in front of the full House for a vote, so it’s important to contact your Representative and ask them to vote no.
H.R.2936 (Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017) would eliminate environmental reviews and public participation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for Forest Planning and many logging projects. On 11/1/17 the House passed this bill. Right now there isn’t an companion bill in the Senate but there are a number of other ways it could become law and we are tracking this closely. The best thing the public can do now is let your Senators know this isn’t a bill you support.
S.1731 (Forest Management Improvement Act of 2017) is very similar to the Resilient Federal Forests Act but is in the Senate instead of the House. It cuts the public out of management decisions on National Forest lands, limits environmental and judicial review of Forest Service projects, and undermines many of the environmental protections in place for our National Forests today. Currently the bill has been introduced into the Senate and referred to the Environment and Public Works committee.
S. 2206/ H.R.5148 (Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act) propose to remove conservation protections and Wilderness Study Area status from 5 Forest Service Wilderness Study Areas in Montana, totaling nearly half a million acres. These bills were crafted without any sort of input from human-powered recreation or conservation stakeholders. They include no plans for how these areas should be managed after WSA status is removed, essentially meaning that a half-million acres of land that are currently protected from development and motorized use would be suddenly open to these uses. The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing on on the Senate bill on 2/7/18. The House version had a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on 6/21/2018.
H.R.5149 (Unlocking Public Lands Act) would remove Wilderness Study Area protections from all Bureau of Land Management WSAs across the state of Montana. Like H.R. 5148, this bill was crafted without any sort of input from human-powered recreation or conservation stakeholders and it includes no plans for how these areas should be managed after WSA status is removed. House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on this bill on 6/21/2018.
H.R. 3565 (The Federal Land Freedom Act) would transfer power to states to make decisions on oil and gas development on national public lands but only if doing so will lead to the same or greater royalties for the federal government. Read more on the Outdoor Alliance blog here. The House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Mineral and Energy Resources, held a hearing on this bill on 9/6/17.
H.R. 3668 (SHARE Act) would, among other things, allow road construction and motor vehicles (including snowmobiles) within designated Wilderness areas. On 9/14/17 the House Natural Resources committee voted to advance this bill to the full House, moving it one step closer to becoming law.
H.R. 3990 (National Monument Creation and Protection Act) would dramatically curtail what areas could be protected under the Antiquities Act, give local officials veto authority over decisions concerning national public lands; lock in place potentially incompatible uses of protected areas; give adjacent private property owners veto power over land management decisions on public lands; and give the President new authority to undo existing protections. On 10/11/17 the House Natural Resources committee voted to advance this bill to the full House, moving it one step closer to becoming law. H.R. 3990 is one of several bills introduced this session targeting the Antiquities Act. The others, which haven’t advanced, include S.33 (Improved National Monument Designation Process Act), S.132 (National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act of 2017), and H.R.1489 (MAST Act). H.R. 243 /S. 22 (Nevada Land Sovereignty Act) is similar but the would only apply to the state of Nevada. Given the complementary efforts in the Executive Branch to undermine the Antiquities Act we’re keeping a close eye on these bills.
H.R.4697 (To amend the Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984 to clarify authorized recreational uses in the Palisades, High Lakes, and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas) would amend the Wyoming Wilderness Study Act to allow increased and unregulated motorized use within 3 Wilderness Study Areas in Wyoming. These include the mountains accessed from Teton Pass outside of Jackson Hole and the high country accessed from the Beartooth Highway. Both are world-class backcountry ski destinations. Across Wyoming local collaborative groups are currently working to find permanent management solutions for the Wilderness Study Areas in the state and this bill undermines those efforts.
H.R.4558 (Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act) has been called “a model for the piecemeal unraveling of the more than 400 national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, recreation areas and other places in the park system” – not exactly a description that brings to mind the “enhancement” the bill’s name entails. This legislation would, among other things, place management in the hands of a local “management council” rather than the National Park Service (who work for all Americans), codify President Trump’s reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and allow activities that are not in accordance with the Park Service’s mission.
H.R. 2 (Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, aka the House Farm Bill). The Farm Bill is huge and most of it has nothing to do with public lands. However, it does have a section on forestry, which impacts public lands mangaement. Although we can’t speak to the rest of the Farm Bill (because we haven’t read all 641 pages), the forestry section is bad news for our public lands. Much of this section has been lifted straight from other pieces of legislation we’ve already vigorously opposed, including H.R. 2936. In short, the farm bill would undermine or eliminate public input and the public process around public lands management, eliminate current regulatory protection of inventoried roadless areas, and redirects funds from environmental restoration projects (which often have ancillary benefits for recreation) and puts them towards promoting logging projects instead. The bill passed out of committee on April 18. It failed on it’s first vote in the House (not because of the forestry provisions) but passed on a second vote on June 22. The Senate version does not contain worrisome forestry provisions (yet).
Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Waters Act. This bill hasn’t been formally introduced yet but it’s bad news. It would take lands away from the public and give them to states, who would not just have the ability for unchecked development, they would actually be incentivized to develop them. States that choose to “forego energy development altogether” would be charged a fee. And all these areas – including Wild and Scenic Rivers, Roadless Areas, and priceless public lands – would be exempt from laws that protect against polluters and ensure a public process.
H.R. 6807 (Removing Barriers to Energy Independence Act) proposes establishing fees to file protests related to oil and gas leasing decisions. Individuals or groups would be charged $150 to file a protest less than 10 pages, with additional pages charged at $5 each. This bill was introduced by Representative Liz Cheney (R, WY) on 6/13/18 and passed out of committee on 6/27/18. The goal of the bill is to expedite development of public lands. Instituting fees on the public to participate in the public process, while doing everything possible to streamline and prioritize development, damages not just public land but the foundation that keeps them public. Even if backcountry skiing and oil and gas leasing rarely happen in the same places, we’re concerned about this bill because of the threat it poses to public ownership and management of public lands.
S. 3193 (A bill to limit the establishment or extension of national monuments in the State of Utah). This is the first of three bills Utah Senator Mike Lee has written with the express goal of eliminating public lands. In explaining these bills he stated that he wants Western states to look more like Missouri. This bill, which was introduced on 7/11/18 has a self-explanatory title. The next two, which haven’t been introduced yet, would take direct aim at all public lands. One would virtually eliminate public lands altogether by transferring them to individual states, in the hopes that western states would look more like “Missouri or Illinois”. The other would allow individuals, companies, or local officials to “petition” to “use” public land for virtually any reason, from building housing to “research” (on what, he is unclear). When the other two bills are introduced we will post information about them here.
If passed, the following legislation would hamstring or eliminate efforts to address climate change and protect the environment.
H.R.637 (Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017) and H.R.958 (Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act of 2017) both seek to undermine efforts to address climate change, by repealing federal climate change regulations and prohibiting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses. Both have been referred to relevant committees but no hearings have been held.
H.R.861 (To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency) would eliminate the EPA. The bill has been referred to relevant committees but no hearings have been held.
H.R.1430 (HONEST Act) restricts the types of scientific studies and data that the EPA uses to write or justify new regulations. This legislation passed the House in March 2017.