U.S. Capitol

On The Front

 

Fighting the Week of War on our Wildlife and Wild Lands

The week of February 3rd was a trying time for wildlife conservation. The U.S. House of Representatives literally waged a week-long war on wildlife and wildlands, passing three anti-wildlife bills.

The first bill, H.R. 3590, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreation Act, came to the floor on Tuesday, February 4th.

Chincoteague NWR, © Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Sunrise at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Under the guise of expanding hunting and fishing access on public lands, H.R. 3590, so-called “sportsman’s legislation,” undermines the Wilderness Act and environmental reviews on national wildlife refuges. This bill silences the voice of citizen stakeholders in refuge decision-making by permanently exempting all national wildlife refuge management decisions from review and public disclosure under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In one fell swoop, this exemption would waive environmental reviews for the entire National Wildlife Refuge System, an enormous and dangerous loophole that would apply to more than 150 million acres of federal land and water and would take away the ability of the public to weigh in on development, road construction, water management and other decisions that could severely impact wildlife on refuges. The legislation also disproportionately elevates hunting above other uses on public lands and requires land managers to facilitate shooting ranges. The vote on this bill was the worst of the week, passing by 268-154.

The second bill, H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, came to the floor on Wednesday, February 5th.

San Joaquin River, © Jcookfisher

San Joaquin River headwaters

H.R. 3964 is a radical and unjustified response to California drought that is meant to achieve two disastrous goals: override Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections in the California Bay-Delta and shut down the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. The California Bay-Delta is the largest bay-delta ecosystem on the West Coast and provides habitat to 750 species of plants and animals. The bill uses the drought to attack these important programs and make them scapegoats for the water crisis in California. H.R. 3964 also would explicitly preempt state water law and water rights, overturning more than a century of precedent under the 1902 Reclamation Act.

In addition, the bill directs the United States to breach its obligations to restore the San Joaquin River, a settlement that farmers, fishermen, conservation groups, and the state and federal governments continue to support and implement. It would also dramatically weaken or eliminate federal laws protecting salmon and other native fish in California, which protect thousands of fishing jobs in California and Oregon and protect water quality for Delta farmers. The bill passed the House by a vote of 229-191.

The third bill, H.R. 2954, deceptively titled as the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act is in reality a whole package of damaging bills, and it came to the House floor on Thursday, February 6th.
H.R. 2954 includes a number of environmentally destructive public lands bills. The first would overturn the very successful and hard-won wildlife conservation protections at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (HR. 819). The next eliminates or delays reviews of grazing leases necessary to ensure sound conservation of species like the imperiled greater sage-grouse (HR. 657). And the last mandates salvage logging on over 150,000 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest and 129 acres of BLM land impacted by the California Rim Fire, while waiving all federal law and eliminating the public’s ability to seek administrative and judicial review (H.R. 3188).

This bill would overturn a multi-year National Park Service process at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore that has resulted in balanced provisions that protect threatened piping plover shorebirds and endangered nesting sea turtles while preserving the economic health of the community. The grazing provisions would prohibit public protest of grazing decisions and frustrate the ability of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to implement new conservation measures as part of their joint National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy. The bill’s salvage logging provisions ignore the substantial scientific evidence that salvage logging impedes landscape recovery, leaves behind slash materials that increase fire risk, and fouls drinking water supplies with disrupted sediment and silt. This terrible bill passed the house by a vote of 220-194.

Defenders worked hard to oppose all of these bills. Given the anti-environmental majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, we knew there would be no chance of defeating them, but it was important to maximize the number of votes in opposition to the legislation to send a signal to the Senate and the Obama administration that these bills are controversial and not worth pursuing. Defenders contacted numerous House offices personally to encourage votes against the bills, sent letters and materials opposing the bills, worked closely with allies on the Hill and in the administration, reached out to the media to raise awareness, and asked you, our members to weigh in with your representatives to oppose the “Week of War on Our Wildlife and Wildlands.” We’re glad to say that nearly 45,000 of you answered the call and reached out to your representatives to encourage them to protect wildlife and habitat. With your help, we succeeded in building as much opposition as possible to these bills.

There were house members that tried to make things better and address the extreme nature of these bills with positive amendments. Defenders also put considerable energy and effort into supporting a number of these initiatives. For example, we took the lead in coordinating a coalition of groups to raise awareness and encourage members to support the Wildlife Refuges and NEPA amendment to the Sportsmen’s bill (H.R. 3590) sponsored by Rep. Ellison and Rep. DeFazio. This amendment would have protected wildlife refuges and the public’s ability to weigh in on important decisions impacting wildlife and recreation. These positive amendments were also unsuccessful, but again, extremely important both for getting members on the record and for sending signals to the Senate and the administration.

So what’s next? We will continue doing everything possible to stop these bills from becoming law. Remember, you have power, too: never hesitate to contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you value wildlife, conservation and our natural habitat, and they should too. With your help, we can protect our nation’s wild lands from harmful legislation and ensure that our wildlife thrives for decades to come.

Mary Beth Beetham, Director of Legislative Affairs
Sandra Purohit, Government Relations Legislative Counsel

37 Responses to “On The Front”

  1. Jane Clugston

    We can not call ourselves civilized when we trample on the civil rights of the voiceless.

    Reply
  2. Mary Tonks

    This really makes me sad, as I donate $8.oo a month for you to fight for animals. They don’t care, do they?

    Reply
  3. Ryan Walden

    How on earth are their decision’s representative of the public? Is there a way we can reverse this?

    Reply
  4. steve

    Hopefully these politicians will not be around fore long! they certainly have lost my vote>

    Reply
  5. Judy Flanagan

    With each bill that passes against wildlife we are 10 steps closer to causing each species to become extinct. It is up to the human race to stop all this rather than let it go on.

    Reply
  6. P. Dyer

    Congress being it’s usual disgusting self, granting the wishes of industry and major donors instead of that of the people.

    Reply
  7. hale davis

    they will not stop until there is no more mother earth and the natural environments to keep us and wildlife alive,wake up people.

    Reply
  8. Alexis Poole

    Please protect our wildlife and our environment. It is all we have. I am against the bills, H.R.3590, H.R.3964, and H.R.2954 bills!

    Reply
  9. Susan Seelbinder

    Please stop the unnecessary slaughter of our wolf population. We need these predators to maintain a balance in the deer,elk, moose and other populations.

    Please LISTEN to those YOU serve.

    Reply
  10. Doraine Shipley

    I cannot for the life of me understand what is wrong with the idiots in Washington. They are on a mission to kill and destroy so much wildlife and public lands. I don understand this. Our lands are so fragile we need more protections not protections taken away. This just for money and to get back at people for not going along with all their idiot ideas. We need to stop this and now before there is nothing left to protect.

    Reply
  11. Sandra L. Miller

    This bill caters to special interests, among them the NRA, and ignores the priorities of a majority of Americans who would like to conserve critical wildlife habitat and protect public lands. Public lands means land to be used by a majority of the population and not special interest groups or private corporations. This is a disaster and a sad commentary on the legislative branch of our government that continues to demonstrate it is completely out of touch with average citizens.

    Reply
  12. Cindy Khalsa

    This mentality of let’s destroy everything that is good about our environment has to be stopped . These lands were set aside for the good of the land and the animals for all of us to enjoy now and for the future . To end this would be the end of our pristine wilderness and the plant and animal inhabitants , please show some compassion for all the people of this country and let these areas stay free from devastation .

    Reply
  13. eva kiefer

    we have a voice no one has the right to take it away..save our wildlife and wilderness areas….

    Reply
  14. Rebecca Keaton

    I cannot believe Americans want these kind of changes to THEIR LANDS. These parks belong to the American people. If we continue to ignore what many “representatives” are trying to do to these lands it will be too late. They will be ruined, gone forever. What an awful thing it would be to let this legacy to our children and theirs be lost.

    Reply
  15. Sally Broadhurst

    I am so sick and tired of people in government saying they are doing what the people want when they are only doing what people with money want. We should just not vote anyone into office anymore and maybe then it will truly be a government of the people by the people and for the people.

    Reply
  16. Mike Burkus

    We continue to pillage what is left of our National park system .

    We should be ashamed .

    Mike Burkus

    Reply
  17. Fredericka Neal

    Excuse some of my language please!
    Are they really that damned stupid! Heartless, careless people probably working with the NRA or some such! Obviously they are not thinking of the generations to follow and any long term affects these bills may have. Jackasses all! I

    Reply
  18. Fredericka Neal

    What unthinking, heartless, small minded, short sighted jackasses! Probably working with NRA or some such and giving no thought to generations to follow and long term effects! I’ll write rep. and not re-elect anyone who voted for any of those bills. Grrr! I’ll spread the word too!

    Reply
  19. Sharon Sprouse

    I do not understand why OUR so called representatives keep attacking wildlife and habitat! What is their problem! Why it is necessary for us to spend so much money paying taxes only to have our supposedly representative government waste it on such horrible bills! They need to stop pollution, cigarette smoking, poverty, starvation in America not pick on defenseless animals!

    Reply
  20. Marie Manarite

    For the PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE Congress people! What part of this do you not understand!

    Reply
  21. Dennis German

    the house republicans are the most vile, ignorant fools on earth, and they represent their constituents who are just as uneducated and greedy as they are. the ongoing rape of the environment by this scum is heartbreaking and depressing. they will not stop until every wild place is paved over, and every animal that threatens the commerce they worship is dead.

    Reply
  22. Cathleen Berg

    There is a war on by certain elected politicians to take away all the legislation that was put in place to save our wild lands from becoming trashed and endangered wildlife from becoming extinct. Its all about money and greed I don’t understand how those that would vote to pass these bills can look at themselves in the mirror and attend church, go home to their kids knowing the damage that will be done to wildlife and wilderness areas..I guess its more important to please their corporate sponsors and business buddies then it is to tell your kids that you don’t care about endangered wildlife or the trashing of wildlife preserves and refuges. I am sad for this country that we are in danger of turning back the clock and losing what safety nets we have for wildlife and wild lands.I will continue to call my representatives in Washington DC to some how stop these bills

    Reply
  23. Colleen Hunt

    Please protect and preserve all wolves.
    They are vital and essential in our ecosystems.
    The 21st Century should be a time of education and awareness, not senseless and wanton 19th and 20th Century big game hunting mentality.
    No one needs wolf pelts and meat today.
    Furthermore, please outlaw trapping, snaring, and poisoning to capture wildlife. Such hunting practices, along with helicopter hunting, are cruel and unfair.
    Thank you for allowing my voice to speak for wolves.
    4Wolves4Ever4Wolfwatcher

    Reply

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