Bad amendment to Superstorm Sandy relief threatens wild places

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey

US Fish and Wildlife Service 

The House of Representatives will be voting on a package to help communities rebuild and recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

 

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are pushing for the bill as a necessary step towards restoring areas that were catastrophically damaged by the hurricane.

The bill, HR 152, will not only help communities, but also parks, refuges and forests that were affected by the storm. These include such iconic places as Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Forsythe and Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuges and Fire Island National Seashore. These places are enormous historic and cultural touchstones for many people and are crucial economic generators for their communities. They need to be restored and in some cases, rebuilt, yet some in the House majority are trying to make sure that the effort doesn’t happen.

Some members of the House GOP are trying to include an amendment prohibit any land acquisition in the wake of this storm. While any potential land acquisition would be small, some restoration of our public lands may have to include buffers which would require small acquisitions. By threatening to withhold funds for this purpose, Rep. Bishop is explicitly tying the hands of local land managers. New access points to these lands could be needed, and sometimes, small purchases are the best or only means to reestablish the lost value of damaged habitat. This amendment would preclude the purchase of even a single acre needed to reestablish public use and resource integrity. This could hurt not only visitors to these sites, but also the habitat that is relied upon by many resident and migratory birds.

Land managers have a duty to respond to this disaster that affected so many. By making a blanket declaration, the House GOP is trying to make sure that these officials cannot do their job.  This amendment undermines the people with greatest knowledge and expertise about our natural and cultural heritage. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of superstorms like Sandy, we need flexibility to protect our public lands. Hamstringing them with amendments like this is not the way to preserve and protect such important parts of America. 

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