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Ms. CHU. Mr. Chair, I rise today in strong opposition to the so-called Conservation and Economic Growth Act, H.R. 2578. On behalf of my constituents and millions of other Americans who believe in protecting our public lands and natural resources, I am opposed to this bill.
This bill is yet another in a long string of anti-environmental assaults that the Republican majority has put forth relentlessly throughout the last two years. Most of its 14 titles do nothing to promote conservation or economic growth. Rather, they advance ineffective and unnecessary policies that undermine long-standing, successful laws like the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
One of the most concerning provisions of this bill seeks to create a 100-mile zone along the northern and southern U.S. borders that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to circumvent laws protecting Native rights, clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in areas rich in hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities in National Parks, Forests, refuges and recreation areas. This undermines the balance between security and preservation of public lands, putting at risk some of America's most renowned natural treasures such as Joshua Tree National Park in my home state of California. And the Department of Homeland Security doesn't even want it, calling this provision ``unnecessary and bad policy.''
Another provision would reverse, for the first time in Congressional history, the National Wild and Scenic River designation for part of the Lower Merced River in California. The Merced River was given this designation in 1992, under the administration of George H.W. Bush, and Wild and Scenic River protections have successfully preserved miles of pristine U.S. waters, enjoyed by a vast outdoor tourism, sporting and recreation industry. The Merced River runs through Yosemite Valley, one of America's most popular natural wonders, and is a tributary to the San Joaquin River that provides most of the water supply for California's agricultural industry. This provision would remove vital protections for one of California's most important water life-lines in a never-before-seen manner, and undermine valuable economic activity among some of the most hard-hit California communities.
The bill would allow the clear-cutting of America's largest remaining old-growth temperate rainforest in the Tsongas National Forest of Alaska; reverse the prohibition of vehicle use on the fragile habitats of Cape Hatteras National Seashore; and mandate the killing of sea lions in the Pacific Northwest in order to protect endangered fish species. ..... This is the Republicans' conservation and jobs bill: killing sea lions and destroying landscapes and habitat across the nation.
As a leading member on the House Small Business Committee and a firm defender of environmental protection, I believe striking the right balance of policy has always been key to our economic growth and our strength as a nation. H.R. 2578 does not accomplish that goal. In fact it does much to undermine it. H.R. 2578 is wrong for America.
I strongly encourage my colleagues to oppose this bill, and any measure introduced that undermines the conservation of America's treasured public lands and natural resources.
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