New Congress’ first 100 days: an anti-conservation rampage

Photo credit: CEBImagery, flickr.

 
After 100 days in office, the 114th Congress has launched a frontal assault on public lands and bedrock conservation laws.

The last Congress was a mixed bag for conservation, but it ended with a big victory, as Congress protected over 1 million acres of public lands (thanks in large part to the members and supporters of The Wilderness Society making their voices heard).

Since taking office on Jan 3, 2015, the 114th Congress has seemingly done its best to banish the memory of that triumph.

New attacks: Congress tries to sell off public lands

Reflecting on April 15, Congress’ 100th day in session, these are just a few of the anti-conservation attacks that have been launched by lawmakers in Washington, DC:


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  • Nine separate attempts to weaken the Antiquities Act, making it harder to protect future national parks and monuments. Since its approval by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, that law has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 presidents, serving as an important contingency plan for when Congress is unable to act swiftly to protect public lands—oftentimes even in the face of broad public support. Numerous recent attacks on the Antiquities Act threaten to knock us back to where we started: with public lands conservation measures languishing in Congress, and natural and historical landmarks cherished by the American people unable to get the protection they deserve.

Please urge your members of Congress to stand up for conservation and protect the Antiquities Act!

  • A Senate amendment that would have removed protection from all “wilderness study areas” (WSAs) managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) unless they were designated as full-fledged wilderness by Congress within one year. This would have effectively allowed legislators in Washington, DC—who have protected little wilderness in recent history—to “run out the clock” on important conservation bills.

Urge Congress to restore funding for conservation programs!

  •  A proposal to terminate the National Landscape Conservation System, a BLM office that manages millions of acres of wildlands and historic sites. Through this department, the BLM oversees hundreds of sites collectively known as the National Conservation Lands, including 20 national monuments and more than 200 wilderness areas. Shutting it down would make it even harder for the shorthanded BLM to protect these places for future generations.
  • Multiple efforts to force more oil and gas drilling on federal lands—ignoring health and environmental safeguards and putting communities and wildlands at risk.  

These attacks are starkly at odds with the will of most Americans. A recent survey found that about 90 percent of voters of all political stripes support permanently protecting some public lands like wilderness. Similarly, 69 percent oppose measures to stop the protection of public lands like national parks, monuments and wilderness areas.

Every single Congress between 1966 and 2009 designated new wilderness areas, but the 112th Congress ended the streak. As we have worked to get lawmakers back on track—culminating in our December 2014 victory—you have made your voices heard loud and clear in Washington, DC, helping to thaw the conservation "chill." This is no time to let Congress get back to bad habits and run roughshod over our American conservation heritage.

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