Right now, members of Congress are finalizing the federal budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Government funding runs out at the end of April, and if legislators don't reach agreement by then, the government will officially "shut down."
This could trigger a nationwide chain reaction that would lead to parks shutting their doors and communities potentially missing out on their share of the $646 billion in consumer spending generated by outdoor recreation each year (among many other consequences).
This makes the appropriations bill a “must-pass” piece of legislation. For that reason, anti-conservation politicians like Rep. Rob Bishop want to use it to sneak their extreme agenda past fellow lawmakers. Our leaders in Washington need to hear that their constituents support a package that funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year without toxic policies, or "riders", attached.
Congressional recess, when senators and representatives return to their home districts, is a key time to give leaders feedback on the things that matter to you, and that certainly goes for standing up to anti-conservation "riders."
Photo of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, by Kristine-Sowl (USFWS), flickr.
We are entering a congressional recess period, one of several stretches each legislative session when lawmakers visit their home states or districts to hear their constituents' concerns and meet with staff. Sometimes, members of Congress host town hall meetings for this purpose. In recent months, we have seem a number of examples of elected officials directly responding to their constituents concerns. When people make their voices heard "in-district," it can have a major effect.
Something you can do that is a little easier than physically attending a meeting, but still very impactful, is simply picking up the phone and calling a lawmaker's office.
The single simplest way to do that is by clicking here to dial the U.S. Capitol Switchboard and find your senators or representative. Be sure to have your ZIP code ready, so the operator can connect you with the correct office.
- Tell them who you are and where you’re from (including your ZIP code)
- Urge your senators to vote NO on bad riders that have nothing to do with the federal budget.
If the link above doesn't work for you, you can easily find your Senate or House member and dial their office normally. As always, they will want to hear that you are a constituent--don't be shy about telling them where you live.
You only have to spend a few moments on the phone to make a difference. If you don't have a lot of time, you can say something like this:
- Please work with your colleagues to pass a clean budget and prevent another "shutdown" without allowing anti-conservation riders into the appropriations bill.
- Examples of some of the worst riders and what they attempt to do:
- block future presidents from protecting parks and monuments
- force an unnecessary road through designated wilderness in Alaska
- encourage more oil and gas drilling without accounting for its impacts
- undermine endangered species protections for the sage-grouse
- block rules that reduce methane pollution
- prop up a broken system that lets coal companies mine on public lands without paying their fair share
However, if you want to get a little deeper, that's great. Here are some more detailed talking points and suggested questions that can be used at a town hall meeting, during a phone call or even in an email:
- You and your colleagues have until April 28 to figure out a plan to fund the government and prevent another "shutdown." But that basic process is being hijacked by extremists who have tacked harmful proposals — “riders”—onto the federal appropriations bill. Will you commit to working with fellow lawmakers and removing these bad riders from the budget?
- Yet again, extremists are trying to tear down the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to designate national monuments. This law has enjoyed bipartisan support and a century-long record of success. A rider (Sec. 453) would make it harder for communities to collaborate and ask the president to protect places they care about. Will you reject a rider that undermines the Antiquities Act?
- Since 1975, greater sage-grouse habitat has been cut in half, and grouse population numbers have plummeted. A bad rider (Sec. 114) under consideration would end carefully crafted plans that have brought them back from the brink of extinction. Will you reject that rider and commit to plans that keep sage-grouse off the endangered species list?
- One rider (Sec. 122) would force the construction of an unnecessary road through designated wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, damaging the heart of globally significant wildlife habitat and undermining the Wilderness Act. This project has been rejected by Congress and the courts multiple times, and would set a dangerous precedent. Will you promise to prevent a road through wilderness in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge?
- Extremist lawmakers want to stop the government from implementing rules that reduce venting, flaring and leaks of methane from oil and gas development projects on public lands. If they succeed with this rider (Sec. 122), it will boost emissions that drive climate change. Will you stop shortsighted lawmakers from blocking methane rules?
- One bad budget rider (Sec. 441) would cancel a long-overdue review of the federal coal program. If passed in the appropriations bill, it would prevent the U.S. from fixing a system that has allowed coal companies to mine on public lands for decades at rock-bottom rates, worsening climate change and scarring the landscape. Will you ask your colleagues to prioritize people and the planet over coal companies?
- The oil, gas and coal industries have been paying incredibly low royalty rates for their operations on public lands for years. A rider pushed by anti-conservation congressmen would prevent the government from raising these rates, a step that has been overdue for decades. Will you oppose a rider that shortchanges local communities and encourages more drilling without accounting for its impacts?
- The controversial and damaging practices of clear cutting and salvage logging could be encouraged under a rider that creates loopholes in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The provision is so broad that potentially any forest management project up to 3,000 acres in size would be considered exempt from environmental review. Will you reject a rider that makes it easier to manage forests in harmful ways without public input and participation?
- Some politicians want to prevent the Fish & Wildlife Service from managing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a way that prioritizes its priceless wildlife habitat. A rider they added to the appropriations bill would effectively allow oil and gas interests to get their hands on it instead, posing a threat to land inhabited by polar and grizzly bears, musk-oxen and migratory birds. Will you stand against a rider that stops wilderness from being protected in the Arctic?
Use Facebook and Twitter to share information on these anti-conservation sneak attacks and catch the attention of elected officials senators by tagging them.
Click on the social media icons to tweet or post from your account.
#CleanBudget #NoRiders #RiggedBudget #BillionaireBudget #Congress #Shutdown
Sample Facebook post
- Congress has until April 28 to figure out a plan to fund the government and prevent another "shutdown." But that basic process is being hijacked by extremists who have tacked harmful proposals — “riders”—onto the budget. We need ti stand up to them and get a #CleanBudget passed!