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Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PERLMUTTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion to recommit. It is the final amendment to the bill. It will not kill the bill and, if adopted, the House will vote on final passage in this series of votes.

The amendment has three parts. They are short and direct. The first involves wildfires and the ability and the authority of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into contracts with the States to clear hazardous fuel to prevent wildfires, as well as treat insect-infested trees. And we'll get into that.

The second part is very clear. Just says, nothing in this act shall override tribal sovereignty, including with respect to Native American burial or other sacred sites. It speaks for itself.

Finally, it's about making sure that in the parks and in the gift shops, that the goods that are sold there are made in America.

So let's just begin with the wildfire piece. As Smokey the Bear says, ``Only you can prevent forest fires.''

Right now, across the West and throughout America we have wildfires dotting our country: 500,000 acres across our country are on fire right now, in Alaska, Arizona, California, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Wyoming, and in my home State of Colorado.

Right now we're battling a very big wildfire just north of where I live called the High Park fire--60,000 acres are currently burning. We have about 50 percent contained through the efforts of 1,800 firefighters, some of the best Federal firefighters we have, as well as State and local firefighters who are doing a tremendous job in a situation where we have very dry conditions, record temperatures, and a very erratic fire.

Now, what we can do and what is missing from this bill is any public policy concerning what to do with insect-infested forests. And we've had a terrible infestation of what they called the pine beetle. And it makes tremendous fuel.

And so what this bill does is it gives the authority to the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department to work with the States to clear these insect-ravaged forests. We need to have that done to prevent forest fires in the future. It's as simple as that. It ought to be very easy for everyone to support that.

Secondly, again, this amendment says specifically, the act shall not override tribal sovereignty. We've reached treaties with the various tribes. Those things control, not this particular bill, and we state that specifically.

Finally, we address something that I think irks many of us in this Chamber. When we have a visitors center in our national parks which is selling goods made in other countries, it just seems wrong. We want to make things in America. Manufacturing in America is key to this country's economic growth and prosperity. We have a saying, ``If we make it in America, we'll make it in America.''

So three very simple, very direct amendments to this bill which make the bill much better, address public policy that is not addressed in the bill that should have been addressed in the bill, especially the wildfire mitigation piece, something that you would have expected to be right in the heart of this thing after Texas was ravaged by so many wildfires last year, and we knew dry conditions existed across the West.

So I urge my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to support this commonsense amendment to mitigate and prevent forest fires, to make sure that tribal sovereignty is respected, and that we make things in America so that we make it here in America.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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