U.S. Capitol building
The package of public lands bills (H.R. 2954) passed today by the House of Representatives is another missed opportunity by Congress to protect some of our nation’s greatest natural resources.
The Wilderness Society opposes H.R. 2954, the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act, because it contains several provisions that would require a massive logging project without the opportunity for public or judicial review and would undermine the integrity of and access to America’s public lands.
“In spite of its name, not a single acre of American land will be ‘improved’ by H.R. 2954,” said Jeremy Garncarz, senior director of designations for The Wilderness Society. “Meanwhile, more than two dozen conservation bills languish in the House even though many are backed by strong bipartisan support. In addition to protecting public lands, those neglected conservation bills help strengthen the nation’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, which helps sustain communities throughout the U.S.”
H.R. 2954 would also prohibit private land sales to the federal government until the Bureau of Land Management complies with certain bureaucratic hurdles. This would not only jeopardize protections for natural resources and access to public lands but would harm local economies. Other provisions would bypass environmental law and judicial review and block public participation. These provisions would irreparably damage publicly owned lands and forests.
“During the past year, the federal government has leased more than 1 million acres of federal land for energy development – chiefly for oil and gas – while putting only one-quarter of that acreage into permanent protection,” said Bob Ekey, senior director for The Wilderness Society. “Last year Congress failed to protect any land and by passing this package they are missing another opportunity to balance energy and conservation in America.”