House Leadership Attacks Wild Lands: Read our blog from the debate

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to make drastic cuts to conservation spending through a continuing resolution it passed Feb 19. These initiatives would deliver crushing blows to wildlands, public health and to economic growth. We followed the debate by live blogging from the Hill. You can read that blog below. 


 

Saturday Feb. 19

Update (8:50 am EST):The House Republican leadership managed to pass the continuing resolution (H.R. 1) that keeps the government running but that bankrupts our public health and economic growth. Despite widespread opposition from all of you who have been in the trenches with us the past few days and nights, a majority of legislators chose to dirty the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands we love.

The House majority may think it has earned some sort of victory but it now has to go home and explain this attack on our natural resources and on good jobs.

Our charge, meanwhile, is to remain vigilant. It is up to us to attend local town hall meetings with these legislators and demand that they explain themselves, to write letters to the editor of our local newspapers decrying the reckless slashing of conservation and environmental programs, and to encourage all of our friends to join our cause.

It’s also time to focus our attention on reversing the assault on our public lands by demanding that the U.S. Senate reject the House spending plan. Contact both of your senators today and make it clear you expect them to defend the investments we make in America’s most beautiful lands and our vital natural resources.

Stay tuned to The Wilderness Society’s Web site, too. This first marathon blog effort garnered attention from members of Congress, reporters, bloggers and supporters across the country. This effort to shine light on the wells of the House has added new muscle to this valiant effort.

Debate in the Senate is scheduled to start on Feb. 28: Let’s get ready to show off our new-found strength.
 

Update (8:45 am EST): Late last night - or early this morning - the House passed H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution, by a vote of 235-189.  No Democrats voted for the bill, which would make drastic cuts to conservation, clean air, and other wild lands programs, however 3 Republicans voted against the bill.


Friday, Feb. 18

Update (2:16 am EST): The Wilderness Society is about to turn out the lights for the evening. The final vote on passage of the continuing resolution (HR 1) could come in the wee hours of the night or later Saturday. We'll be back at it after we catch a little sleep, then we'll make one final push to stop House Republican leadership efforts to devastate our public health and economic growth. We again thank you for turning to us as a go-to source of information and commentary on the late-night workings of our government.

Check this space again Saturday for the latest details and thoughts on where we go next.

Update (2:09 am EST): Ending the night on a good note - The Heller (R-NV) amendment to block the President from protecting lands through the Antiquities Act fails 209-213!

Update (1:50 am EST): And another amendment blocking climate science - this one with-holidng funding from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - passed the House 244-179.

Update (1:32 am EST): An amendment to block funds from the NOAA Climate Service passed the House 233-187.

Update (1:04 am EST): The National Landscape Conservation System looks to have dodged a bullet - Rep. Bishop withdrew an amendment to de-fund the system which includes places like Upper Missouri River Breaks monument in Montana.  Votes are now up on the amendments on climate science and the Antiquities Act.

Update (12:19 am EST): After midnight the House began deabte on disallowing monument designations (like Grand Staircase Escalante) under the Antiquities Act.

Update (11:58 pm EST): Debate on weakening EPA's Clean Water Act enforcement for coal ash.  Says Rep Waxman (D-CA) "Coal ash toxic sludge created a Superfund site in Tennessee already - costing us millions in clean up...Coal ash poisons people and drinking water"

Update (11:19 pm EST): More attacks on climate science - this time de-funding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on of the leading organizations studying climate change and the effects it will have on people, communities, and ecosystems.

Update (10:41 pm EST): Another attack on climate science - this time trying to de-fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate science program.

Update (9:50 pm EST): TWS Public Lands Policy Advisor saw a bit of hope in the Herger vote below. "This was closer than many of the lost votes tonight, so not a bad showing.  We pulled 18 Republicans to our side, and lost 8 Democrats.  Onward to the Senate with the fight."

Update (9:48 pm EST): In news that saddens Maryland residents, the House passed 230-195 an amendment from Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) that prohibits funding to implement plans for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Several representatives said earlier this evening that the amendment would be a tremendous setback for water quality throughout the region. 

Update (9:31 pm EST): Reaction from TWS Conservation Funding Director Alan Rowsome on Herger amendment: "The House narrowly passed an amendment that limits the forest service from regulating its road system - opening up more of our pristene lands to off road vehicle use. Importantly though, 18 Republicans voted against this harmful amendment, showing that many members understand the need to protect our forests."

Update (9:26 pm EST): In one of TWS's most widely watched amendments, the House voted 227-197 to improve an amendment from Rep. Herger (R-CA) that bars funds from implementing a rule relating to designation of roads and trails on the National Forest System. This amendment would open up national forests to greater damage by ORVs. 

Update (9:17 pm EST): Reaction from TWS Conservation Funding Director Alan Rowsome on Markey Amendment vote: "The House had an opportunity to cut the deficit and eliminate oil/gas subsidies with Mr. Markey's amendment, but it failed on a largely party line vote. That's $53 billion that could be going to conservation and other important and worthwhile programs that are being slashed."

Update (9:15 pm EST): The House rejects 174-251 an amendment from Rep. Markey (D-MA) that restricts new leases from offshore oil and gas drilling.

Update (9:10 pm EST): House rejects Amendment 526 from Rep. David Wu (D-OR), which prevents the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from ruling on Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals. House voted no by a count of 87-338.

Update (9:04 pm EST):House votes no (74-348) on Amendment 246 from Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), which bars use of funds for beach replenishment projects by Army Corps of Engineers. 

Update (8:23 pm EST): Jeremy Garncarz, senior director of the Wilderness Support Center at The Wilderness Society reacted to Rep. Dean Heller’s (R, NV-2) amendment to eliminate any funding to be used for the implementation of the Antiquities Act:

“This amendment would ignore one of the most fundamental values that Americans – including those in Rep. Heller’s district – love most: our shared natural heritage.

Since 1906, 15 presidents -- from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush -- have protected the places that now define our culture and heritage, like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.

Now, looking back on the times I spent in some of my favorite places, I realize that they would not exist if past Presidents had not used the Antiquities Act to protect our most cherished places. 

Some of our nation’s most popular places like the underwater garden of Buck Island Reef in the Virgin Islands or the Aztec Ruins in New Mexico would not be preserved if Rep. Heller’s amendment had been law more than 100 years ago.

It is critical that we protect the President’s authority to designate National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, and continue to work with local communities to protect the places that define us.”
 

Update (7:32 pm EST): Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD): “Health of the bay is under assault from pollution… Collectively this hurts the largest estuary in the U.S. - we should be protecting it”

Update (7:28 pm EST): Rep. Moran (D-VA), defending cleanup efforts of Chesapeake Bay “Recent pollution measures in Chesapeake Bay are working…pollution of the bay is a job killer in fishing, crabbing, and tourism industry”

Update (7:07 pm EST): Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) just made an impassioned plea to stop mountain top removal. He said it poisons streams, people and the water supply that feeds much of Appalachia, calling it a “destructive and immoral practice” that has also caused a 50-percent drop in mining jobs in his region.

Mountain top removal, he continued, “is no good for the people of Appalachia, for their economy, and it’s certainly not good for the environment.”

Update (6:45 pm EST): The National Resources Defense Council has some interesting perspective on the budget battle, including a look at how religious groups are opposing cuts to international climate change funding. Check the NRDC analysis of the fight against H.R. 1.

Update (6:20 pm EST): Our friends at American Rivers report that attacks on clean water are coming “fast and furious”. Clean Water Program Senior Director Katherine Baer outlines the attacks in her blog today. Writing about an amendment to prevent protection of small streams, she notes that “We know this attack isn’t about saving money for the nation – New York City just reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the many streams that flow into their drinking water source – saving the city over $10 billion. This amendment is about making it easier to pollute our streams and rivers.”

Update (6:03 pm EST): This bulletin just in from TWS Colorado Regional Director Suzanne Jones: She’s keeping an eye on how the proposed budget cuts to forest planning and management budgets would affect the Pike and San Isabel National Forest in Colorado.

The Pike and San Isabel is one of this nation’s great outdoor treasures. Stretching from the plains to the Continental Divide, its ponderosa pine savannas and rugged 14,000 foot peaks provide a wide spectrum of backcountry recreation for the one million plus Front Range residents that live close to the forest. Headwaters to two of this nation’s most important rivers -- the Platte and Arkansas -- the forest provides drinking and agricultural water to downstream communities and states.   

“Our national forests are so integral to Colorado’s tourism and recreation-based economy and to our high quality of life,” Jones tells us. “It makes no economic sense whatsoever to further slash forest planning and management budgets. It is analogous to letting your bridge and highway infrastructure crumble. Maintenance and good management cost so much less than trying to restore years of damage and neglect.” 
 

Update (5:50 pm EST): Rep. Moran continued making case to stop Amendment 177 that would limit the ability of the Forest Service to regulate roads and decommission them through management plans: This would stop a careful planning process … Random ORV routes put our waters at risk and put forest visitors in danger … Amendment stops a locally oriented planning process driven by longstanding effective partnerships.

We expect a recorded vote to be called for after 8 p.m. Call your representative and ask him or her to vote no on 177.

Update (5:25 pm EST): Floor debate now on ORVs in National Forests - Rep. Moran (D-VA) says undercutting the planning process would "squander the investment" of Forest Service, non-profit groups, and community groups into planning process.

Update (4:36 pm EST): Great discussion on drilling continues …

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): These royalties should be going to many places, including the land and water conservation fund for preservation. Let's give the American public a return on investment.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA): The people we represent are putting gas in their cars and heating their homes while making tough decisions for their families. Let's protect the taxpayer.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA): This is a decision between the poorest, neediest Americans and the richest companies; Subsidizing a company to drill is like subsidizing a bird to fly. We don't have to do it; They don't need a 53 billion taxpayer windfall.

Update (4:27 pm EST): Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) makes an important point about oil companies drilling for free on American lands: If we plan to balance our federal books, why are we giving away $53 billion to companies that already make record profits?

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) added a great question of his own: We cut head start, but give money away to rich corporations? This is the worst abuse.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) responds: At a time when oil companies can't count their money fast enough, they are getting away with highway robbery.
 

Update (2:46 pm EST): America’s Great Outdoors, a visionary blueprint for 21st century conservation unveiled by President Obama this week, could also fall prey to the House Republican leadership’s budget axe. Learn more about the program in a blog post on America’s Great Outdoors by TWS Communications Manager Emily Diamond-Falk.

Update (2:28 pm EST): More on the Poe amendment from TWS Director of Climate Policy David Moulton: Rep. Poe’s (R-TX) “stop-work order” bars EPA from regulating harmful pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane.

EPA is implementing the Clean Air Act, which has, since the passage of the law in 1970,
 

  • Saved tens of thousands of lives each year by reducing harmful pollutants that cause or contribute to asthma, emphysema, heart disease and other potentially lethal respiratory ailments.
  • Reduced the harmful pollution from automobiles, industrial smokestacks, utility plants and major sources of toxic chemicals and particulate matter since the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970.
  • Saved Americans over $21 trillion dollars by keeping them out of hospitals, in schools, and on the job.
  • Created new industries and jobs that annually generate billions of dollars in revenue. 

Update (2:21 pm EST): More attacks on Clean Air - this time on EPA's ability to keep all of our our air clean.  Amendment from Rep. Poe (R-TX) to revoke funding for EPA to regulate pollution from sources like power plants and oil refineries passes 249-175. 

Update (2:15 pm EST): The Young amendment to strip Clean Air Act protections from drilling off the coast - threatening native communities with degraded air quality and the health maladies that come with it – passes the House 243-185

Update (1:56 pm EST): The Wilderness Society’s Northern Prairie campaign coordinator, Janelle Holden, reflects on the job cuts and environmental damage that the continuing resolution (H.R. 1) could force on her favorite wildlife refuge in Montana:

“One of my favorite places in Montana is the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is home to one of the few prairie Wilderness areas in the country: the U.L. Bend Wilderness. It is home to one of Montana’s largest elk herds, and the best big game hunting in the state. Black-footed ferrets, one of the North America’s most endangered mammals, have been reintroduced in the refuge, and many rare wildlife species depend on the habitat in the refuge. With these cuts, the Fish and Wildlife Service would have to eliminate staff, including wildlife biologists. They would also have to stop many of the habitat improvement projects they are working on. These cuts would definitely harm one of the Treasure State’s crown jewels.”

Update (1:35 pm EST): Zoe Krasney in The Wilderness Society’s Southwest regional office reports that Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) proposed an amendment to the CR to eliminate funding for the critically endangered Gray wolf recovery program.

“The wolf program matters because bringing back these top predators will, as studies in Yellowstone have shown, help eliminate wasting disease in elk herds, improve our free-flowing streams and the health of the entire ecosystem,” Krasney says. “Bringing back a species almost extinct to its natural habitat restores the cycle of life, and our place as stewards of the gifts of nature. A wolf howl is the call of the wilderness.”

Check out a good fact sheet on the Gray wolf from our friends at Defenders of Wildlife.

Update (12:23 pm EST): TWS Senior Director of Development Jennifer Donahue followed the live blogging news about efforts to elimination the National Landscape Conservation System. Jennifer grew up at Red Rock Canyon and shared her memories with us:

Red Rock National Conservation Area was a place I grew up loving.  The Bishop amendment to de-fund the National Landscape Conservation System could devastate this place, a place that my mother took me to in the mornings to hike to our special place where we could watch the sun rise over Red Rock.  I felt the cool desert morning air and saw the majesty of the purple horizon change to dawn over the fiery rocks of this canyon.  We would hike past the Wild Burrows, see a Road Runner dash past us, and even glimpse a coyote now and again.

“I knew and know the Wild West because of this place. This place shaped how I saw my world and how I fit into it. I have two pictures of the moon rising over Red Rock that now hang on my wall over my shoulder as I do my job every day.  They remind me who I am and what matters.

“These cuts could defund this precious place. It is a treasure to so many, and to me personally.  I have promised my son to take him there someday to share ‘my spot’ and watch the sunrise with his mom the way I did with mine. I fear these cuts could make it less possible for me to fulfill my pledge to my son.  These cuts could rob me and my son of the chance to see the wildlife and the wilderness together.”

Update (11:49 am EST): The Pearce Amendment (348) kills funding for the National Park Service, The National Wildlife Refuge System, and other Dept. of Interior agencies to prepare the lands they manage for climate change.

  • This amendment is an American job killer – threatening the 6.5 million jobs in the outdoor recreation industry, which drives more than $730 billion a year
  • Protecting our public lands from climate impacts creates American jobs on American lands
  • Keeping our wild lands resilient in a warming world protects billions of dollars worth of clean water, clean air, and crops

This amendment is little less than an attack on science, the American economy and the unique and treasured places that make our country truly unique. As Glacier National Park’s signature glaciers melt and well-visited and cherished wildlife refuges across the nation face coastal inundation now is not the time to force Department of Interior’s head into the sand. Now is the time to invest in solutions that employ American innovation to protect our communities and landscapes while creating American jobs on American lands.

Update (10:59 am EST): The House is up and running and today and this could be the day it votes on the Continuing Resolution (House Resolution 1) that would keep the government running through September – while recklessly slashing countless programs that protect the air we breathe, water we drink, and lands we love.

There is still time for you to make your voice heard. Click on the take-action link at the top of this page and ask your representative to protect our public health and economic growth by saving our public lands and natural resources. And stay tuned to this page for the latest information and commentary!


Thursday, Feb. 17

Update (12:14 am EST): Rep. Young (R-AK) amendment to weaken Clean Air Act standards on offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean takes the floor - roll call vote postponed until later in the night.  The amendment would threaten the air quality of native communities along the Arctic Coast - during floor debate, Rep. Young claims that native communities would not be affected. 

Update (11:35 pm EST): As the clock heads toward midnight, the TWS blogging team is going to call it a night, but keep an eye out for the amendment from Rep. Young (R-AK) that would revoke the Clean Air Act for drilling in the Arctic Ocean, threatening native communities, and one from Rep. Carter (R-TX) that would revoke Clean Air Act protections for all Americans.

We're hearing that our blogging is reaching a lot of people, and we want to thank all of you who have been spending time with us the past two days and nights. We thank you for contacting Congress and asking them to vote against all these reckless attacks on our public health and economic growth. Thank you for standing with us. Now get some sleep. We've got work to do in the morning!

Update (10:03 pm EST): The Wilderness Society's Seattle office comments on the successful defeat of a House vote that would have zeroed out all money to the Land and Water Conservation Fund -- a program that has protected many beloved places around the country. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) voted to protect LWCF, which also drew praise in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column.

"With his vote in favor of protecting LWCF, along with 31 members of his party, and his reintroduction of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions last week, Congressman Reichert has made two strong statements in favor of public land conservation," said Peter Dykstra, Pacific Northwest regional director at The Wilderness Society. "We commend Congressman Reichert for his bipartisanship and support of conservation in Washington during these critical times."

Reichert was joined by 31 members of his party, including Simpson, LoBiondo, Wittman, Gerlach, Frelinghuysen and Lance. We thank all of them for their support of LWCF.

Read more about The Wilderness Society's work in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

 

Update (8:57 pm EST): Amendment vote update - House votes 250-177 to remove EPA's ability to regulate toxic emissions – mercury, carbon, etc – from industrial coilers.  Another amendment from Rep. Carter is on the way – this one would do the same on cement kilns.  This is an end-around on the Clean Air Act, and threatens clean air all across America. 

Update (8:38 pm EST): "A fat man's defense of Wilderness" -- now that's a headline. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Tom Wharton may be one of America's best. This heart-felt piece raises some great questions and reveals why a long time member of the National Guard who loves his four-wheel-drive also wants to see Wilderness protected. Do yourself a favor and read Wharton's column.

Update (8:28 pm EST): The Wilderness Society's staff in Seattle reports that one of the biggest funding cuts we’re facing is a 41-percent reduction of the Legacy Roads and Trails program. A loss that big would cut jobs in rural communities, threaten clean drinking water and make it tougher for people like you and me to access some of our favorite recreation areas.

“Legacy Roads and Trails was championed by Rep. Norm Dicks to improve the health of our forests and waterways by maintaining or removing forest service roads," said TWS Senior Resource Analyst Mike Anderson, who serves as a coordinator of the Skokomish Watershed Action Team -- a coalition of business, tribal, agency and organization leaders that works on watershed restoration including Legacy Roads and Trails projects. "It’s also a job creator – one of the members of my coalition is a contractor who has been able to keep workers on his payroll due to the projects he’s gotten with Legacy Roads and Trails.”

In 2007 Congress made an historic appropriation, known as the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative, to address the destructive legacy of logging roads. It provided nearly $40 million for reclaiming, repairing and maintaining roads and culverts in regions across the nation where Forest Service roads contribute to water quality problems or harm fish protected under the Endangered Species Act. 
Washington state has received $15.2 million in federal Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative funding during the past three years. Of the $8.1 million allocated to Washington this year, $3.8 million went to the Olympic National Forest, and $2.7 million of that went to the South Fork Skokomish watershed, making this the biggest allocation of Legacy Roads funding for any single watershed in the nation.

Update (5:59 pm EST): TWS Communications Manager Jared White in Montana drops us a line with a view from his state – cuts would axe restoration projects that improve public health and put people to work:

“Out here in in the Blackfoot, Clearwater, and Swan River watersheds in western Montana, we have embarked on a historic effort to restore forests that were heavily roaded and logged over the past 50 years or so. We are working alongside a larger collaborative composed of folks from all stripes, including businessmen such as Gordy Sanders of Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake. He points out that restoring the Southwestern Crown of the Continent will put a number of Montanans to work ‘while providing multiple goods and services to benefit rural communities.’

“The money for this initiative—and nine others that survived the competition for funding—came under the 2009 Forest Landscape Restoration Act. If Congress fully invests in this program we can create 170 full and part-time jobs annually, improve 1,000 miles of stream, combat weeds on 81,000 acres, and reduce fire risk on 27,000 acres near forest communities over the next decade. 

“If they pull the plug on this investment, none of that good work can happen.”

 

Update (5:52 pm EST): New intel on the plan for votes on the CR: In approximately 1 – 2 hours, the House is expected to take votes. A handful of amendments have votes scheduled, but the ones that we are watching most closely are:

  • Amdt.165 (Rep. Carter  R-TX) - to stop EPA from using its funding to implement new air pollution rules for cement kilns
     
  • Amdt. 195 (Rep. Lummis R-WY) - would prevent individuals of modest means, small businesses and non‐profits from collecting reimbursement of reasonable costs of successful litigation against illegal actions by the federal government as awarded them by the courts pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, including veterans, small business owners, Social Security Beneficiaries and conservationists.

Update (5:47 pm EST): The Wilderness Society’s Kevin Mack passes me in the halls of TWS. We talk about Red Rock Canyon. He makes some great points:

  • “According 2009 figures, the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, a National Scenic Backcountry Byway, minutes from the Vegas Strip , had over 1 million visitors from around the nation and the world.  The proposal to defund the National Landscape Conservation System would close this drive.
     
  • “In a region hit hard by the economic downturn, but slowly recovering and attracting tourists to its gaming tables and the world-renowned Red Rock National Conservation Area, why would anyone want to do anything that would make the region less attractive visit?  That’s what this proposal would do. 
     
  •  “It tells the American people and the world community that if you were one of the millions of potential visitors to this spectacular compliment to the Las Vegas Strip … maybe you should just stay home.  Not good for America.  Not good for Las Vegas. Not good.”

 

Update (5:26 pm EST): Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) warns that proposed cuts to the National Landscape Conservation System could close Red Rock Canyon: “Red Rock is one of the most popular spots in Southern Nevada for outdoor recreation and more than a million local families and tourists from around the world visit this unique natural treasure each year.” Read her Red Rock Canyon press release.

Update (4:59 pm EST): The CR being considered by the House contains cuts to land management planning, TWS forest policy analyst Cecilia Clavet tells us: “This could not come at a worst time when the administration is taking on the daunting task of developing a new forest planning rule which has the opportunity to improve how 193 million acres of national forests are managed for clean drinking water, recreation, wildlife and climate change.”

Update (4:34 pm EST): Republicans save the worst for last – Herger Amendment 177 is last on the list of votes for this evening, according to TWS Public Lands Policy Advisor Anne Merwin. “This is the amendment that would stop national forest managers from addressing safety risks, damage and conflict from off-road vehicles. The amendment also takes away the voice of thousands of Americans who have in good faith worked with the Forest Service to develop off-road vehicle management plans over the past 6 years – it’s a shameless insult to off-road vehicle riders and conservationists alike who spent their time and energy to see this process through.” 

Update (4:16 pm EST): The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership calls cuts proposed by House leadership a “conservation crisis”. Sportsmen criticize potential cuts to conservation programs critical to fish and wildlife management, hunting and angling.

Update (3:56 pm EST): Kevin Mack continues correcting the record on efforts to wipe out the NLCS: “Decimating the National Landscape Conservation System would put an end to the Iditarod. The international event that is Alaskan and American, man and dog, all in one, would be stopped. No money to complete a special recreation permit, no money to manage the event. The event along the Iditarod National Historic Trail, which is managed by the BLM, is yet another causality of the vision for our public lands by the Congressman from Utah (Bishop). Why does he want to cut off public access to our public lands?”

Update (3:33 pm EST): The Wilderness Society’s Kevin Mack picks up on Ben Friedman’s response to Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). Bishop said in E&E story that the National Landscape Conservation System a “stupid system” and that anyone who says funding cuts will shut down parks is making “moronic overstatements”. Mack: “This is a slap in the face to the millions of people who visit these natural, cultural and historic sites every year.”

Update (3:28 pm EST): Southern Utah Wild tweeted about our first response to Rep. Bishop’s attacks on the National Landscape Conservation System. Tweet reads as follows:

SouthernUTWild SUWA TWS public lands staffer takes issue with contentions made by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) about NLCS defunding amendment http://bit.ly/fQjdOz

Update (3:24 pm EST): We just learned from our friends on Capitol Hill that Congress may at last get around to voting on some amendments we care about. Votes may start happening around 4 p.m. EST.

Price 514 -- Federal Fire Prevention
Walden 404 -- Open Internet/Broadband (no environmental angle here but a fascinating issue to watch)
Camp 516 -- Asian Carp

Update (3:08 pm EST): Save Our Environment is cataloging the attacks on our public health and economic growth. You can find a comprehensive list of the threats here: http://soe.salsalabs.com/o/1/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=71

Update (2:57 pm EST): Sometimes a member of Congress finds just the right way to point out an injustice. From Rep. George Miller (D-CA): “Salmon don’t have a lawyer.” Fish and wildlife need our help, folks.

Update (2:34 pm EST): We expect the House of Representatives to vote on the anti-environmental funding bill some time later today or possibly well into the evening. There is still time for you to write your member of Congress using the link at the top of this page. You can also call your representative to ask him or her to vote against the reckless spending cuts that would jeopardize public health and economic prosperity. Find your representative here: http://www.house.gov

Update (2:24 pm EST): Ben Friedman from the TWS public lands department took issue with contentions made by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) in today’s edition of Greenwire. Bishop claims that the National Landscape Conservation System’s budget represents redundancy in funding.

These claims are incorrect.

  • Without funds to this system, Americans will be unable to access these conservation lands that stand along the National Park System and the National Wildlife Refuge System as the cornerstones of American conservation.
     
  • The specific and critical monies that fund the National Landscape Conservation System provide for law enforcement and visitor centers, and for managing recreation, services that provide visitor safety and information that disappear without funding.
     
  • Dinosaur digs in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are revealing new species of dinosaurs. Without funding, this cutting edge science cannot continue. Renowned events and destinations would be stopped or closed, including the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area in Northwest Nevada, hikes in The Wave at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Northern Arizona, and the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, WY.
     

Update (1:55 pm EST): Republicans for Environmental Protection weighs in on debate with alert: “Stop anti-environmental extremism – House continuing resolution attacks protections for public health, natural heritage”.  REP opposes attacks on Clean Air Act, public lands protection and wildlife conservation.

Update (1:52 pm EST): From TWS energy policy analyst Chase Huntley: Kudos to Senator Feinstein for calling House proposed cuts what they really are: clean energy job-killers. In a letter to colleagues yesterday, the Senator told her colleagues that, if successful, this effort would halt dozens of projects around the country, especially in the West. By eliminating funding for DOE’s loan guarantee program, which leverages $16 dollars in private investment for every $1 of loan guarantee (which are repaid), it would stymie efforts to secure the private investment necessary to build today.

Update (1:49 pm EST): Associated Press report in Washington Post: Feinstein says GOP bill would halt energy projects. “Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein says renewable energy projects across the country will be jeopardized if House Republicans are successful in scaling back a program that helps companies gain financing for solar, wind and geothermal plants, and transmission lines.” Read full story

Update (1:30 pm EST): We have now entered into an amendment free-for-all. Any member can offer their amendment, but the chair can give priority to appropriations committee members.  

Update (1:07 pm EST): A number of blogs are picking up our live blogging of the House Republican leadership attacks on our public health and economic growth. Check out a few of the sites following us today: http://www.demarcatedlandscapes.com; http://www.refugewatch.org; http://wildernessugeorgia.com; http://paper.li/bindigove

Update (11:47 am EST): The special places that make up the National Landscape Conservation System need dedicated funding in order to keep these beautiful and unique lands open to the public. We recently assessed the management of these lands at exisiting funding levels and found many areas that needed improvement and increased funding. Unfortunately a spokeswoman for Congressman Bishop had that part wrong in a Salt Lake Tribune article. The article followed a press event yesterday where western land advocates decried the proposal to take away all funding for the many monuments, conservation areas, and wild and scenic rivers that are part of the National Landscape Conservation System.

Update (11:30 am EST): News from Maryland League of Conservation Voters: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) attempted a sneak attack on the future of clean water for the 17 million residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The amendment offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia would prohibit the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act, specifically the federally-mandated pollution diet for the Chesapeake region that is just beginning to make a difference. People need to vote against this and all attacks on our drinking water.

Update (11:23 am EST): TWS Communications Manager Neil Shader had this to day about that cuts to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act: “This is a bad move for sportsmen, wildlife lovers, birdwatchers, and communities across the nation.  NAWCA is a program that leverages grants from the government with dollar-for-dollar matching contributions from communities and non-profit groups to put wetlands restoration projects on the ground.  This undercuts a popular, cost-effective, and successful program, for no apparent good reason.”

Update (11:14 am EST): Many hunting and sportsmen’s groups are expressing major displeasure with the House for cuts to LWCF, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Forest Legacy, Farm Bill Conservation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, National Fish Habitat Action Plan and the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund.  

Update (10:55 am EST): Attacks on clean air and American clean-tech innovation tie us to out-dated, dirty fuels while placing our treasured landscapes, public health, and communities in harm’s way.  While hiding under a paper-thin banner of “protecting jobs” these misguided policies actually place the American economy in greater danger while worsening the climate crisis. If Congress wants to create and protect American jobs it would embrace policies that spur innovations that clean our air and ramp up clean energy development.  Follow JP on Twitter @TWSjp

Update (10:15 am EST): Cuts to Forest Service would cause major problems for Greater Yellowstone, The Wilderness Society’s David Madison writes. Read his blog post here.

Update (10:05 am EST): TWS Conservation Funding Director Alan Rowsome makes case for Land and Water Conservation Fund in Salt Lake Tribune. Read full story 

Update (9:48 am EST): More from E&E: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) took specific aim at the CR's EPA cuts and environmental policy riders in a statement, warning that the GOP bill "could jeopardize the quality of drinking water for millions of Americans and may leave millions of acres of wetlands and countless streams and rivers vulnerable to pollution without Clean Water Act protections."

Update (9:45 am EST): And we're back!  The online news service E&E reports that “the House could vote today on a number of amendments related to the proposed seven-month funding prohibition for U.S. EPA's greenhouse gas emissions regulations and passed another cut to the agency's greenhouse gas funding yesterday.”


Wednesday, Feb. 16

Update (8:28 pm EST): One final note tonight, from TWS Director of Conservation Funding Alan Rowsome: The major assaults on our treasured public lands are done for the night – but there are still threats lurking as the budget process moves forward.  We’ll keep you updated as this process moves forward, and keep you up-to-date on how you can make your voice heard for America’s wild lands and wildlife.

A special thank you to the more than 30,000 of you that reached out to your members of Congress to speak up and defend our parks, our refuges, and our wild places – we literally cannot do it without you.

We’d also like to thank the leadership of Congressman Moran (D-VA), Congressman Dicks (D-WA) and Congressman Simpson (R-ID) in protecting conservation funding on the House floor.  It's been a long, tough day, and they have been true conservation champions working to find common sense solutions to protect prudent natural resource investments.  Without them, who knows where we'd be.
 

Update (7:48 pm EST): Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), on the attempts to weaken the EPA and remove its ability to regulate carbon pollution in the air: “This is an assault on science.”

Update (7:37 pm EST):  The House just beat back an amendment by Rep. Lummis (R-WY) to eliminate funding for LWCF vote by a vote of 216-213.  33 Republicans stayed voted for conservation and America’s wild open spaces.  Great show of support for a great program. $59 million was saved for LWCF funding, but more importantly, we showed House Republicans and the Senate that LWCF has bipartisan support and is a critical conservation investment that gets results.  This really is huge for protection of LWCF funding moving forward.

Update (7:07 pm EST): Want to know how we've been following this debate? Pull up live coverage from CSPAN at http://cspan.org ... but don't forget to stay tuned to TWS for reaction and analysis.

Update (6:37 pm EST): Several House Republicans have called EPA’s accounting of carbon pollution from power plants a “job-killer” – turns out, it could create more than a million jobs.  Learn more here

Update (6:19 pm EST): From TWS Climate Policy Director David Moulton: Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS) proclaims that an EPA program to keep track of harmful global warming pollution should be rolled back as a “job-killer.”  Rep Moran (D-VA) notes that this amounts to an “ignorance is bliss” amendment.  Perhaps a better characterization would be “ignorance is dangerous”.  Climate disruption is going to strike Kansas and Virginia whether Mr. Pompeo wants to keep track of emissions or not.  All EPA is trying to do is shine a little light on the problem in time to do something about it.  

Update (5:48 pm EST): TWS Forest Policy Analyst Cecilia Clavet sees problems ahead for wildfire suppression if House Republican proposals succeed in striking $250 million from a fire suppression account known as FLAME: “This will compel the Forest Service to revert to the unsustainable practice of transferring from important agency programs like recreation, road maintenance and decommissioning, trails, fish and wildlife, and even programs that help to reduce fire risk like hazardous fuels reduction and state fire assistance.” Read more

Update (5:39 pm EST): TWS Arctic Program Director Lois Epstein, on Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) amendment to remove Clean Air Act rules for drilling in the Arctic Ocean “Like many other drilling safety measures, air quality standards are in place for a reason – to protect the health of coastal community residents and offshore workers.  Unbelievably, Cong. Young is pushing for lower air quality for Alaskan communities than the Clean Air Act gives East coast communities."

Update (5:27 pm EST): TWS Conservation Funding Director Alan Rowsome, steamed by continued attacks on Land and Water Conservation Fund: “President Obama just said we’re going to fully fund LWCF through AGO.  Meanwhile, the House has a vote to zero out the program. Unbelievable."

Update (5:21 pm EST): A personal note from your TWS live blogger: Rep. Lummis (R-WY) gets it wrong on protection for wolves. Sounded more like she was reading “Little Red Riding Hood” than getting “honest about the wolf and its recovery”. When you let people fly over a wild animal in an airplane and shoot it down, that animal is one that is still in need of protection.

Update (5:04 pm EST): Rep. Markey (D-MA) on the Land and Water Conservation Fund: “This LWCF cut doesn’t take us back to 2008 funding levels. It takes us back to LBJ levels, before the program even existed.  I urge a vote of no on this amendment.”

Rep. Moran (D-VA) also made the case for conservation. “Conservation in America pays for itself.”

TWS's Alan Rowsome reports that there will be a vote on an amendment from Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) to completely de-fund LWCF later tonight

Update (4:50 pm EST): Deseret News in Utah runs story with great headline: “Groups blast Rep. Rob Bishop over ‘gutting’ landscape conservation." Reaction from Kevin Mack at TWS: “The effort to tear down the NLCS would close the doors to lands people love to visit and to those lands whose income depends on them.”

Update (4:42 pm EST): Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) points out the stark contrast between President Obama’s vision for the outdoors and House proposals to slash support for them: “Today President Obama is speaking to the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which emphasizes the need for cooperation between federal, state and local bodies. And yet this body is discussing gutting state wildlife grants, and LWCF which are essential to promoting cooperation and joint jurisdiction.” Read more.

Update (4:39 pm EST): More from Craig Gehrke: Cuts to BLM threaten the agency’s ability to complete a comprehensive recreational travel plan for Idaho’s Owyhee County as mandated by the 2009 Omnibus bill. Indiscriminate, user-created ATV routes scar the landscape and threaten habitat for sage grouse and bighorn sheep. 

A comprehensive recreational travel plan for Owyhee County was supported by ranchers, county commissioners, Idaho’s congressional delegation, some motorized recreationists and conservationists.  The BLM needs funding to complete inventories of existing routes, solicit public input, and prepare alternatives for public comment.

Update (4:24 pm EST): TWS Idaho Regional Director Craig Gehrke reports that funding cuts to BLM threatens agency’s ability to complete critical components of the 2009 Omnibus bill in Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness complex.  BLM is still in the process of marking the boundaries of these new wilderness areas, an important step in halting ATV “pioneering” of new routes which led to the Congressional protection of these areas in the first place.  Without marked wilderness boundaries, motorized intrusions in the designated wilderness areas will continue.  

Update (4:01 pm EST): Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on the Land and Water Conservation Fund: “We must focus on responsible cuts, not arbitrary short term cuts to win a few votes back home … LWCF is a proven economic multiplier that creates $4 for every dollar spent.”

Henrich also spoke against proposals to cut funding for climate change science. “We need to make our decisions based on the best available science, not the worst politics possible.”

On Antiquities Act, which has protected iconic places like the Grand Canyon. It is an “ economic life line’ to rural communities.”

Update (3:34 pm EST): California Congressman seeks to open forests to off-road vehicle abuse. TWS Public Lands Policy Advisor Anne Merwin tells us that Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA)  quietly introduced an amendment that would prevent the Forest Service from using any of its budget to enforce or implement the off-road vehicle management plans recently completed for nearly every national forest in the country. Read a full press release here

Update (3:25 pm EST): "This CR is a polluter’s dream and a public nightmare," - Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)

Update (3:20 pm EST): “The longer we delay to address climate change, the more difficult our decisions will be.” - Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA).

Update (3:17 pm EST): from TWS Director of Conservation Funding Alan Rowsome: Congressmen Simpson (R-ID) and Moran (D-VA) refuse to allow an amendment from Congressman Pearce (R-NM) to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  This will protect the little remaining $59 million that the House left in their CR after gutting the program in the base bill.

Update (3:05 pm EST): More good stuff from Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY): says Clean Air Act “has saved hundreds of thousands of lives”. He cites American Lung Association, which notes it saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone – as well as preventing 18 million respiratory illnesses among children. It has also prevented 200,000 premature deaths.

Update (2:44 pm EST): News from TWS Energy Policy Analyst Chase Huntely: The House is voting now on an amendment from Rep Inslee (#395) that would redirect funding from yesterday’s fuels to clean energy innovation at the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). We agree the marketplace of innovation is not free – we must fund cutting edge research in critical emerging energy technologies including advanced renewable technologies and advanced building efficiency technologies!

Update (1:47 pm EST): Congressman Tonko (D-NY) says that it is ‘simply extreme and painfully irresponsible’ in talking about cuts to clean energy, drinking water, and our environment

Update (1:45 pm EST): TWS Climate Policy Director David Moulton finds some heinous cuts to public health and safety, but giveaways to the oil and gas industries are spared the meat cleaver.  Here are some examples of the climate-smart programs getting hacked by the House.
• $123 million in cuts to research determining the effects of climate disruption.

• $530 million from the fund to reduce energy use and pollution by weatherizing the homes of low-income families

• $100 million from maintaining our National Park System in the face of melting glaciers and invasive weeds ruining our national heritage

And while these programs are getting the axe, more than $4 Billion (with a B) in sweetheart giveaways to the oil, gas, and coal industry are being spared, at the expense of American families, communities and treasured wild lands

Update (1:31 pm EST): We are watching carefully for amendments from Congressman Steve Pearce and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis this afternoon that will eliminate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  The underlying bill already includes devastating cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that is ALREADY PAID FOR using a very small percentage of oil drilling receipts.  These are not taxpayer dollars.   These amendments represents a complete elimination of a bipartisan conservation program that has existed for 45 years.   They also prevent these polluter revenues deposited in the LWCF account from being used for their authorized purposes, and makes them disappear forever.  These funds were a promise made to the American people in 1964.  Congress should not break this long-standing commitment.  These amendments must be rejected.

Votes on budget amendments that affect our wild places are beginning soon.

Update (12:59 pm EST): Be sure to check out freshman Rep John Garamendi’s floor statement last night on how the proposed budget cuts would gut efforts to win the race to the clean energy future – and the $2.5 trillion market at stake.

He said it: “The teachers that educate our children, … the engineers that design jobs-creating clean energy, and the middle and working class parents raising the Americans of tomorrow  – they're all at risk in this budget battle."

Update (11:55 am EST):JP Leous reports that Rep. Pearce of New Mexico is expected to launch an attack against protecting our communities from climate disruptions via amendment number 438. This amendment is an American job killer: healthy public lands are a huge source of employment as a result of recreation, hunting, fishing, hiking. Forcing the Department of Interior to turn a blind eye to clear and present climate threats puts communities, businesses and families at great risk. (Learn more by following JP on Twitter @TWSjp).

Update (11:30 am EST): One of the first threats we’re monitoring today is an amendment by Rep. Bishop of Utah that limits access to our public lands by eliminating funding for National Landscape Conservation System.  What it means, if it were to become law, is that 27 million acres of America’s newest conservation system-the National Landscape Conservation System-could be closed to the American people.  Millions of Americans visit these  amazing areas every year.

Among other sites that would get slammed shut:

Red Rock National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas would have to shut its doors.  Over a million Americans visited last year. 
• Restoration projects that maintain incredible cultural sites at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, containing the highest number of known cultural sites in the country, would be stopped.
Pompey Pillar National Monument -- where you can see the signature of William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, in a cliff along the Yellowstone River-the only such evidence in existence, would have to close its doors.

 


Tuesday, Feb. 15

The House Republicans’ proposals to recklessly slash federal spending by historic levels include "the threatened 13" -- some of the  worst ideas The Wilderness Society has seen its 76-year history. This baker’s dozen of bad ideas would produce a host of severe consequences for public health and economic growth. 

Check back as we'll be updating this post with breaking budget news.

"There are a host of bad amendments and proposals contained in the House Leadership’s irresponsible bill to keep the government running through the rest of fiscal year 2011,” said Alan Rowsome, our director of conservation funding. “There are dangerous cuts across the board to public health, jobs, and wildlands, but a few stand out among the crowd.”

"The Threatened 13" are The Wilderness Society’s list of worst budget cuts proposed by House leadership. That list includes:

  1. Eliminating the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). According to the Department of Interior’s budget brief for 2012, the $675 million that it requested for public land conservation “will contribute an estimated $1.0 billion in economic output and support about 7,600 jobs … Activities funded under the LWCF will continue to ensure public access to the outdoors, preserve natural resources and landscapes, and protect irreplaceable cultural and historic sites.”
  2. Stopping science in its tracks. Driven by radical ideology, not proven facts, the House majority has decided to deny the existence of global warming by eliminating funding for climate change science. The legislation would cut at least $123 million for climate research --  funding needed to assess our vulnerability to climate disruptions and to develop the tools needed to adapt to climate extremes.
  3. Eliminating forest planning that keeps the damage caused by offroad recreational vehicles under control. This impairs public safety for all national forest users and threatens drinking water resources, big game species, and other key resources.
  4. Eliminating the EPA’s authority to hold polluters accountable when they foul our air and poison our water.
  5. Closing National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.
  6. Cutting back on forest rangers, youth outdoor education, and law enforcement.
  7. Limiting access to hunting and fishing – slashing the local jobs those activities create. Putting off maintenance projects, fighting invasive plants, restoration work, timber cutting, and managing wildfire.
  8. Putting off maintenance projects, fighting invasive plants, restoration work, timber cutting, and managing wildfire.
  9. Preventing federal agencies from moving forward with their responsibility to protect wild lands, wildlife habitat, and watersheds.
  10. Eliminating the Department of Interior’s ability to inventory, monitor and protect potential new Wild Lands (Wilderness areas).
  11. Failure to adequately fund the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program, which would threaten drinking water supplied to 66 million people. The cut could also eliminate up to 2,500 jobs. The program funds road and trail improvements, maintenance work and road removal projects that improve the health of local watersheds.
  12. Revoking the President’s ability to keep our wild places safe by using the Antiquities Act, which has protected iconic places like the Grand Canyon.
  13. Weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is   the most important conservation law that ensures that federal agencies take  a careful look at the effects of their actions on the environment and that  the public has an opportunity to provide input and information to federal  decision makers.  Without NEPA, the public’s ability to protect their  communities would be largely silenced. 

“Congress shouldn’t take the budget axe to our favorite lands,” Rowsome said. “These lands protect our supplies of clean drinking water, provide places for us to get outdoors and save habitats for all kinds of wildlife. They deserve all the protection we can give them.”

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