The Wilderness Society testifies against anti-wilderness bill

Jun 8, 2012

America’s wilderness under siege again as House Committee considers bill that would waive environmental laws

The Wilderness Society today testified against H.R. 5791, the “Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act.” If passed, the legislation could effectively waive all environmental, and health and safety laws, for the reconstruction of water facilities in wilderness. At the same time, The Wilderness Society praised H.R. 3641, the Pinnacles National Park Act. Unlike H.R. 5791, the Pinnacles National Park Act enjoys bi-partisan support, and is aligned with a strong and storied American conservation legacy.

H.R. 5791 is troubling in several ways and, if implemented, could have significant adverse impacts on wilderness areas. The legislation:

  •  Effectively waives all environmental, and health and safety laws, for the repair of existing facilities or construction of new dams in wilderness
  •  Gives blanket authorization to new dams, pipelines and other facilities in wilderness with no environmental review
  •  Hands control of wilderness areas to state or local agencies
  •  Interferes with state water laws by authorizing the construction of new water facilities without regard to water rights
  •  Applies to all 110 million acres of American wilderness

Communities across the United States depend on wilderness for clean drinking water and healthy air, and if enacted, H.R. 5791 could have significant impacts on wilderness areas across the United States.

In his testimony, Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society, said,

“…The Wilderness Society supports the ability of state and local agencies to access, maintain, repair, and restore their water facilities in wilderness areas. America’s wilderness areas are a wonderful source of clean drinking water and some wilderness areas contain water facilities that help distribute this water to American residents. Wilderness areas are a critical component of a national forest system that, according to the Forest Service, provides drinking water to sixty-six million people.

“…H.R. 5791 would provide broad new authority to state and local agencies, effectively waiving environmental laws, and causing significant adverse impacts on the natural environment, jeopardizing the health and safety of downstream water users, and undermining water law throughout the United States.”

Conversely, The Wilderness Society supports the Pinnacles National Park Act (H.R 3641/S. 161) -- introduced in the House by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), and in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  This bill would upgrade Pinnacles from a National Monument to a National Park, while also adding nearly 3,000 acres of the Monument to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Pinnacles is a popular destination for climbers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, who are drawn to the area by the unique caves, spires and crags that give Pinnacles its name. The chaparral hillsides and canyon creeks are also home to a rich array of native plant and animal communities. Most notably, Pinnacles is a release site for the reintroduction of the critically endangered California condor and now has over 30 resident condors.