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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2578, Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DOGGETT. I thank the gentlewoman.

Madam Speaker, I rise to focus attention upon one provision in this legislation, perhaps a few rose petals hidden in a very unnecessary thicket of painful thorns that are the center of this legislation.

Recently nominated as a World Heritage Site, the Spanish missions in San Antonio are a unique treasure for parishioners, for tourists, and for Texans everywhere. In 2010, our able former colleague, Ciro Rodriguez, introduced bipartisan legislation, both to expand the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park by about 151 acres and to require a study by the Secretary of the Interior about even further expansion of this important park.

In 2010, this very House approved the Rodriguez legislation. Though a companion bill was offered by Senator KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, and she got it out of the Senate committee, the full Senate failed to act on the Rodriguez bill.

During this Congress, I have been one of five Members who joined Representative Canseco in re-introducing the Rodriguez bill. Instead of approving our bipartisan measure, the Resources Committee has merged only a fraction of that bill into a totally unrelated piece of legislation that is little more than a giant giveaway and exploitation of public property and which will endanger irreplaceable natural resources from the seashore in North Carolina to the Tongass wilderness in Alaska.

While Senator HUTCHISON continues to work on a bipartisan basis, this particular measure really includes little of the protection that our missions deserve. Now any purchase of additional land for this park, an original purpose of the bill, that's prohibited, and even a mere study of the possibility of additional park expansion, that's denied in this bill.

Now, the only way that the park can be expanded is if a private or public owner donates land to the park. In other words, it makes future expansion and protection of these San Antonio missions dependent entirely upon charity.

No matter how public-minded some private property owners may be, some are likely to be unable to afford to donate the land.

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Mr. DOGGETT. So some property owners will be unable to donate their land. Instead of continuing the previous bipartisan commitment to the missions, this bill reflects the same ideological extreme so evident in our larger public policy debates, like that over the future of our national transportation system. Yes, our Republican House colleagues are all for good transportation. It's just paying for that transportation that they're opposed to.

And so today we hear about private property rights. Well, what about the private property right of an individual landowner to sell their property for a legitimate public purpose such as expanding this vital national park? That is denied in today's bill.

This bill will not grow the park in the way necessary to fully enhance the missions that are so very significant to San Antonio and to the culture and history of our Nation. The better approach is to wait and follow Senator HUTCHISON's lead and to approve a freestanding, bipartisan bill and give these missions the protection they deserve.

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