Bishop aims to gut America's top parks conservation program (LWCF)

Rob Bishop's attack on LWCF is part of a larger effort to give beloved American lands over to extractive industries.

Anti-conservation Congressman Rob Bishop’s blatant attacks on conservation laws are nothing new, but this month he’s gotten downright vicious.

On Nov. 4, Bishop struck out at our nation’s most important parks conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, (LWCF). His new bill would crush the hugely successful program, crippling America’s best tool for conserving special lands that are at-risk to development.

Bishop’s attack on LWCF is a part of larger effort, backed by special interests, to lock up more federal lands and sell them off for mining, drilling and other development. 

His legislation aims to severely restructure the program, gutting its power protect lands for conservation and diverting its funds from parks to subsidize oil companies and oil leasing.

Grand Tetons National Park is just one area that would benefit from the program Bishop wants to kill. Image by Loren Kerns, flickr

Bishop's bill puts 172 national parks with private inholdings at risk of development, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Grand Teton National Park.

As chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Bishop has already been trying to derail the LWCF program for some time. He refused to hold hearings to discuss renewal of the 50-year-old program before its congressional authorization expired on Sept. 30, despite the pleas of his fellow congress members, hundreds of conservation, sportsman and outdoor recreation groups and tens of thousands of Americans. As a result of his delay tactics, LWCF’s authorization lapsed on Sept. 30.

However, Congress can still choose to renew the fund, as President Obama is now calling on them to do. And after being pressured by a steady stream of calls to hold hearings and renew LWCF, Bishop has finally agreed to begin on Nov. 18--but not without introducing his new bill that would change the nature of the program.

Bishop is a ringleader in the movement to give away beloved American lands to the states. Image: Oil drilling near Canyonlands National Park, by Mason Cummings. 

Public lands in Bishop’s crosshairs

Bishop’s attack on LWCF is a part of larger effort, backed by special interests, to lock up more federal lands and sell them off for mining, drilling and other development.

Bishop leads congressional efforts to undermine the Antiquities Act, the mechanism that allows presidents to establish national monuments. It’s no secret that he holds our parks, monuments and public lands in contempt. That was obvious with his infamous “Ah bull crap, that’s not an antiquity” retort to Obama’s designation of Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument in July. The designation protected ancient cave dwellings, among other treasures.

"Evil in the flesh" - Rob Bishop on the Antiquities Act, another of America's fundamental conservation laws.

Bishop is also the chief architect of a congressional movement to turn public lands over to the states, where they can be sold off or leased to mining, oil and gas drilling or other development. In April, Bishop and Utah representative Chris Stewart announced the “federal Land Action Group (FLAG) with the purpose of developing a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control. 

Basin and Range National Monument, NV., was recently protected by a law that Bishop calls "evil in the flesh." Image by Bob Wick, BLM.

Currently several bills are pending in the House, including measures from Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, that intend to facilitate the disposal of certain public lands to the states. In March, the Senate approved a budget amendment (S.A. 838) that would allow the transfer or sale of national forests, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges to states.  A budget resolution in the House of Representatives (p. 119) expresses support for this idea, stating that state control of more lands will lead to increased resource production. 

Killing the gift to the American people that LWCF has given over the past 50 years is simply emblematic of Bishop’s industry-backed bully approach to conservation laws. If he succeeds, he will certainly ensure more lands are open for extractive business.

The best way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. And that’s what our wildlands need Americans to do now.

We need level-headed members of Congress to stand up for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as it exists now and we need Americans nationwide to spur them to action, just as the president is doing. Together, we can keep the enemies of our public lands from stealing what belongs to all of us and our future generations. 


LWCF maps and resources