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Public Statements

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

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. This particular resolution provides for a structured rule for the consideration of H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act, which contains 14 titles containing important legislation impacting our Nation's public lands and our national parks.

The rule provides for 90 minutes of general debate, equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources and makes in order the vast majority of amendments which were filed at the Rules Committee. So this structured rule is extremely fair and will provide for a balanced and open debate on the merits of this particular bill.

It was only a couple of Congresses ago, Madam Speaker, in which the Senate sent over an omnibus bill. It had over 100 particular bills added to it. I should have been happy. Three of them were mine. And even though mine were really great bills, some of the rest of them were really bad. That was 1,200 pages. But what was most egregious about that bill that was sent from the Senate is that 75 of those 100 bills had not had any hearing whatsoever in the House. One in particular that dealt with my State, although not my district, not only had not had a hearing in the House, it hadn't even had a hearing in the Senate when it was put into this pile, and it was brought to the floor under a closed rule.

This bill, every single title has gone through regular order. The committee of jurisdiction has had a hearing on each of these elements. They have had a debate in full committee on each of these sections, and they have had a markup on every one of these bills. The committee has heard and has done the work. The amendments that were germane to the issue and were not assigned to other committees were made in order to be heard on the floor.

So once again, this is a bill that is unique in the spectrum of traditional omnibus bills, tying things together, because it did go through regular order, the committee did hear each of these provisions, and it is appropriate to now send it over to the Senate so they can try to consider something at some time in some form of regular order.

With that, Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Within this bill, there are, as I said, several proposals that are there, all of them dealing with Federal lands and all of them dealing with overreach that has taken place, unfortunately, by this administration. Let me just highlight a couple of them and why these bills are useful and very much important.

Title X of this particular section deals with Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Cape Hatteras in North Carolina was established as a recreation area. In fact, the economy of that particular county, Dare County, was established as a recreation zone and a recreation area. Authorized in 1937, that's still 30,000 acres for recreation purposes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started in negotiations with the community of how they would actually try to manage that land, especially governing off-road vehicles. They established certain restrictions that would limit visitation.

And for local residents who were there, the residents agreed to those, even though they weren't really quite happy about it. And everything was going well until special interest groups started the litigation process.

You see, the Fish and Wildlife Service had issued a biological opinion finding that this interim management strategy that was established in the cooperative, collaborative process had indeed solved the problem and that there would never be any kind of jeopardy to any endangered species listed in that particular area. Everything was going well until, once again, there was a lawsuit.

A year after this agreement had been made, there was a lawsuit which this administration, unfortunately, decided to negotiate out of court. The lawsuit was never actually adjudicated. No judge made a decision. Basically, the administration caved to the special interest groups; and they rewrote the opinion that had been ruled by the Fish and Wildlife Service, their biological opinion that it did not jeopardize any endangered species.

So that went into effect. And, unfortunately, in March of this year, they even shrank the rule again to make it even more restrictive than the consent decree that had been settled out of court.

What this bill, this section of this particular bill, does in Cape Hatteras is do what's logical. It goes back to the original concern, the original land management plan that was done with the cooperation of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the local constituents that had been agreed upon, that had nothing to do with endangered species and did not jeopardize anything, simply going back to what had been done before the administration decided simply to cave in to special interest groups and settled out of court.

There's another section, I believe it's section 11, that deals with grazing rights. One of the things that businesses deal with, especially those that deal with grazing rights, is they need a constant to make sure that business is not uncertain. That is a most significant part.

One of the things we're finding out right now, though, is with grazing, especially in the West, excessive paperwork within the Department means we create missed deadlines that cause environmental litigation. And once again, stability is a constant that is necessary in business, and grazing is a business. It's one of those problems that to redo a permit to allow grazing will take 4 to 7 years for a permit that's only 10 years in the first place.

What this bill does is say those permits now go from 10 to 20 years, once again, to give some consistency to those who are engaged in grazing activities. It also codifies appropriation language that has had bipartisan support for over a decade and makes sure that NEPA review in crossing and trailing of livestock on public lands is not going to be subjected to another layer of red tape.

This industry puts $1.4 billion into our economy every year. And if, indeed, we do not treat our ranchers well, the 22,000 ranchers who have these Federal permits, the ability of maintaining this as a viable occupation is put in jeopardy. This amendment, this section fixes that. It solves that problem.

There are some other good ones. In fact, the one that I am proposing I will talk about in a minute. But for now, let me simply reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Once again, I appreciate the opportunity of talking about a couple of other elements in this bill. I appreciate the gentleman from Texas and his comments.

Unfortunately, yes, the study was taken out because it would be a replication of what has already been done; and the land that could be used to expand this is already in the public domain. And what we are simply saying with this particular bill is, no, we don't need to try and force private property owners to sell their lands. If they want to donate it, that's fine. It's not essential to the expansion of this particular park. I think it's the appropriate thing to do.

Let me, though, Madam Speaker, if I could, talk about the other provision, title XIV in there, which deals with our border security. It's one of those things that I happen to think fairly significant.

If I could start with just a few charts so that people understand what is going on. This chart is simply the division of this country by Border Patrol sections. You'll find out that certain sections have a lot more people coming into this country illegally than other sections.

For 2009 and 2010--those are the last 2 years for which we have full data--there were about a half million people that were illegally apprehended, just apprehended coming into this country. But of those half million, a quarter million, 51 percent or more, were coming through one sector which happens to be the Tucson, Arizona sector. That's not even the entire State of Arizona.

So the question has to be asked, why are 200,000-plus people being apprehended in Arizona when in Maine it looks like about 39 people were apprehended? Why is this area the entrance of choice?

I think it's undeniably that one of the reasons is simply because of the territory on that southern border. Everything in red on this border is land that is owned by the Federal Government. You'll see that 80 percent of Arizona is Federal land, much of that being wilderness and endangered species habitat or conservation rights-of-way.

One of the ironies is our Border Patrol, which is tasked with securing our border, has almost unlimited rights to do what they need to do to protect our border on private property and no one objects to it, which is why the statement of the gentlelady from New York is somewhat disingenuous, because most of her district is, indeed, private property. Border Patrol already has these kinds of options.

It is only on Federal property that the Federal Border Patrol is prohibited from doing its Federal job, and that seems bizarre and, indeed, unusual.

See, this is what the border actually looks like. That's the fence, and that's the one road that the Border Patrol is allowed to use if this happens to be a Federal wilderness designation. The break in the fence, by the way, happens to be there so that animals can go freely from Mexico into the United States and back and forth. I think I could contend that not only animals are using that kind of break in the fence.

Needless to say, the issue at hand simply is: Why is the Border Patrol prohibited from going into certain Federal areas when they need to do it even though the bad guys--the drug cartels, the human traffickers, the kidnapping rings, the prostitution rings--are allowed to go in there?

We have in these Federal wilderness areas 8,000 miles of illegal roads, created by illegal drug traffickers, going into this area, and the Border Patrol by our rules and regulations and laws is prohibited from going into that same area. Is it right that they, in hot pursuit, should have to go to the edge of one of those wilderness areas and then have to wait? Indeed, that is what has happened.

Secretary Napolitano, when she was first put in there, simply said:

One of the issues is, at the Southwest border, it can be detrimental to the effective accomplishment of our mission. In fact, it may be inadvisable for officers' safety to wait for the arrival of horses for pursuit purposes or to attempt to apprehend smuggling vehicles within wilderness with less than capable forms of transportation.

The Border Patrol clearly recognizes this. They actually tell us they don't need more money, that they don't need more manpower. What they need is access into that area, which currently they are denied. Let me show you how that works.

This is simply one of the sensors that's used. Instead of having an actual fence, you use the sensor. It's a truck with a sensor on the back of it. In this Federal national monument, which is almost all wilderness designation, the Border Patrol wanted to move this truck from point A to point B. It took the land manager 3 months to grant approval to back up the truck and move it to some other place. During that 3 months, there was a 7-mile blackout area in which there was no surveillance possible. At the end of that 7 months, if the land manager had said, ``No, that area is too sensitive. I don't think you should go there,'' I would have objected, but I would have understood. Unfortunately, after 3 months of review, he let them move the truck, and it was too late to do it then.

That kind of example of what is happening on our border is replicated time and time again. Let me give you some examples.

In 2007, the Border Patrol asked permission to improve two forest roads in the Coronado National Forest, a total of 4 or 5 miles on the border at the edge of this area. They wanted to be able to move their mobile surveillance systems to higher ground to actually get control of the particular area. They would use the road at most once a day, but the Fish and Wildlife Service delayed the decision because they were afraid some of the dirt may eventually get into one of the streams in the particular area. The net result is, in 2011, permission still not being granted in this particular area, a catastrophic wildfire burned 68,000 acres. Three illegal aliens were arrested, and one admitted actually starting the blaze.

In 2010, the Border Patrol requested three helicopter landing sites in the Miller Peak Wilderness. The Forest Service liked the idea because they could use those sites also for fire suppression. Once again, the Fish and Wildlife Service, a competing agency, had concerns because it would have an impact on the Mexican Spotted Owl. Unfortunately, when they did a survey, they found that there were no spotted owls in the area. Nonetheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service stopped the construction of those helicopter pads. Then in 2011--you guessed it--1 year later, a 32,000-acre fire, which destroyed dozens of homes, took place. Once again, it was found that illegals coming into this country started those fires.

The citizens of Tombstone, Arizona, are allowed to go five at a time with hand tools into these wilderness areas in order to repair the pipeline, which supplies water to the city, that was damaged in these fires. Once again, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the Mexican Spotted Owl was the reason for those limitations.

GAO did a survey, a report: 17 of the 26 Border Patrol stations experienced delays, and 14 of those 17 reported being unable to obtain permits or permission from land managers to use it. Stations that were found in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico confirmed that they were unable to control the border due to land management positions. Even on the northern border, in the Spokane sector, they found, once again, they were being blocked from existing roads on national forest land due to environmental concerns.

The GAO report found that it could take 6 months or more for permission to improve roads needed for patrolling in New Mexico. Another Border Patrol station reported 8 months in delay for the permission to move a sensor as the land manager required an historic property assessment. A station in California reported that it took 9 months for permission to do road maintenance on Federal land.

These are the factors that are inhibiting our Border Patrol from doing their job.

Now, in the GAO report--and some people look at the executive summary, and they are looking at it improperly--it said that 22 of the 26 agents in charge reported that the overall security status had not been affected. What that meant was their status of being a controlled sector, a managed sector, or a monitored sector had not been changed; but what they did say is they were being inhibited and impeded in doing their job to try and control our particular borders.

Look, those who are coming in--the drug cartels, the human traffickers--they don't care about our laws. This is an endangered species. This cactus was cut down, but it was cut down by the drug cartel to do a roadblock across a public road in the United States so they could use it to stop cars and then mug the participants of those cars, and this is whether in those cars were Americans or other foreign nationals coming in there.

What is probably worst of all are the rape trees that are taking place--violence against women who are coming down on American land in these areas. That simply means, as the coyotes lead these women across the border, at the end of that road, as the final payment, they will rape the women and then leave an article of clothing on one of the trees as a trophy for their actions.

This heinous activity taking place on American land is not being prohibited now and will not be prohibited unless the Border Patrol is allowed to maintain access on this property. That's why this bill, this section, is so essential. It is the war on women.

We had 19 people in the month of May of this year who died in the Tucson sector alone. Unfortunately, that is an increase from what happened a year ago in May. We need to end this problem. There are three reasons why this section is important:

One, sovereign countries control their borders. We need to be able to say we control our borders.

Two, I want to see a comprehensive immigration package go forward, but every time I hold a public town hall meeting, I know the first question that will be asked of me, which is: When will we control the border? There is a great deal of anger and anxiety out there, and it is very clear that we will never get consensus for other immigration reforms to take place until we have first reduced the anger and anxiety.

C.S. Lewis said, You do first things first, and second things will be added to it. If you do second things first, you will accomplish neither first nor second things.

This administration seems to be intent on trying to do, for whatever political purpose it may have, second things first. The first thing is to control the border. When we can truly look with an honest answer in the eye of our fellow citizens and say, ``America's borders are secure,'' then there will be a reduction in the anger and the anxiety that will allow us to move forward.

Three, we have to stop the violence against women. These rapes that take place on rape trees on American property--on Federal land on American property--because the Border Patrol does not have access to this area to patrol it effectively must stop. It's our duty and obligation to make that stop.

With that, Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 2 minutes.

Once again, Madam Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from California's comments, although I'm going to have to push back slightly on a few of those, if it's at all possible.

This particular bill deals with 100 miles from the border simply because that is the legal definition of border land by both statute and judicial decree. It does not deal with coastal areas. In the committee, those areas were taken out because it is maritime area. The Border Patrol deals only with land borders and those particular areas.

The 36 rules that are waivable is precedent established by this Congress. In California, where the gentleman resides, when they wanted to finish the fence and it was being withheld by certain kinds of litigation, Homeland Security came up with 36 specific rules and regulations they wanted to be able to waive so they could do it. That was the precedent. The rules and regulations that are in this particular bill that's now title 15 are the exact same 36. That's where the precedent comes. That's why Homeland Security wanted that time to finish their job. That's what they needed this time.

However, I'm also making an amendment to this bill that will reduce those 36 because, to be honest, some of those never really were a problem. It will reduce it now to the 12 that the Border Patrol thinks are the most egregious. But there is precedent for that particular thing. All we are doing is trying to give the Border Patrol the same rights on Federal lands that they currently have on private property. There is no expansion of power and no expansion of jurisdiction. It's the ability to say our number one goal is to have border security; and if there is a rule or regulation getting in the way--and there are according to the GAO reports--those should be waived for the purpose of border security. That's the whole purpose. We're not expanding a power. We're not taking anything more than that in particular away.

With that, Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King), who would like to speak about this particular rule.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I appreciate the efforts of my namesake from New York. I appreciate what he is doing. Chairman Hastings of the Resources Committee was extremely specific in which he said that after the Democrat Senate had sent over that atrocious omnibus bill with over 100 bills cobbled together, 75 of which have never had a hearing over here, we would only put together this type of regulation if it had gone through regular order. Unfortunately, the gentleman's bill has not had a hearing in any committee. It has not actually been reported yet, which is one of the reasons why it has not been included in this particular list. Although I'm not denigrating his efforts whatsoever.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 3 minutes.

I appreciate many of the comments that have been made here. I'm glad the gentleman from Colorado is still here, because in the memo of understanding which controls what the Border Patrol does, Border Patrol is able to go anywhere they want to on foot or horseback. They may go on a motorized vehicle on existing public administrative roads. But there is nothing in the memo of understanding that extends there to prevent them unless it is an existing exigent emergency. And the problem the Border Patrol actually has is no one really knows how to define exigent emergencies. That's one of the reasons why they want to have something specific in the memo of understanding--nor the statute does not help them in those particular areas--because, indeed, land managers have handled those exigent circumstances differently.

I would like to say one other thing as well, because there are some places in this Nation in which the idea of title XIV in this bill, which is the bill that deals with border security, has been expanded with information that is simply inaccurate. Montana, for example, has a 545-mile border with Canada. It has different issues than the southern border--but it's not numbers--but it is remote, and who can cross that border illegally is significant.

The junior Senator from Montana actually asked the GAO to come up with a study on border security in the North, and the report was only 1 percent of the northern border is secure. That was his study that he wanted. Despite the fact that the Missoulian has warned about al-Qaeda plots in Montana, that the Border Patrol chief from Montana has begged some kind of action--indeed, this month the Border Patrol has sent out a warning of the use of terrorists who are talking about--chatter abusing wildfires as an area to distract so they can come in entrance, and one of the States they specifically mentioned was Montana.

Even though that is taking place, there is a campaign going on where this particular issue, border security, has been hijacked in the name of politics. And only because it is my idea that's being the center of this, I find that somewhat unusual, somewhat offensive. It is an effort to say that this effort to try to control our borders is related in some way to the PATRIOT Act or the REAL ID Act or, indeed, that it deals with some other element of expansion of power. Some people have gone as far as saying it is a land grab.

It is unusual to me that this concept of border security was presented in the Senate on an appropriations bill and was passed by a voice vote. Then the bill in which this amendment was placed was then passed by the Senate, and the junior Senator from Montana did not object to the voice vote and actually voted for it and now claims that this same idea is an expansion of government power, thus, something not work.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I yield myself 1 additional minute.

What I also found somewhat distressing is that in this campaign in Montana there is another group called Montana Hunters and Anglers, who, unfortunately, are simply a partisan hit group that are taking out ads directly against this particular provision and saying that other members in the delegation from Montana are supporting something that is wrong. Unfortunately, the members of that hit group have ties to Democrat organizations. The secretary is part of the Obama Committee in the State of Montana. The treasurer is a former Democratic staffer up there.

This group, the Montana Hunters and Anglers, are a faux group. The real supporters of this bill are people like the Montana Wool Growers Association, the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts, the Montana Public Lands Council, Montana Stock Growers Association. These are real groups, and they all support this particular provision and this particular bill because they realize the value of border security that takes place. They also realize what Secretary Napolitano recognized: that if you improve border security in the area by removing violators from public lands--those are the people that destroy things--the land value is enhanced. It is better for Border Patrol if they have enhanced ability to control those particular borders.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. In my last minute, Madam Speaker, there are a couple of things I would like to say. First of all, I appreciate the words that were read. Unfortunately, reality is different. One of the reasons why this particular provision is supported by the Border Patrol Union as well as the Association of Retired Border Patrol Agents, reality is sometimes different than what we think it should be. And I also have a list of three pages worth of groups who support not only this provision but the other 13 provisions.

I must in closing, though, bid the apology of the gentlelady of New York for one thing. One of the former Parliamentarians wrote a book and said when we put C SPAN cameras in here, everyone started to read their speeches, and our debates became extremely dull. That's true. But when you read something, you don't make a misstatement. I did. I did a couple. My amendment does not reduce it from 36 down to 12; it reduces it from 36 to 16. I also used the ``disingenuine'' in talking about the gentlelady's remarks. That was the wrong word. That was, indeed, the word I said, but it is not what I meant to say, and I apologize for saying that. That goes over the line of comity and I'm sorry, and I just want you to know that I apologize for ``oopsing.'' That should only be done by Governors, not by Members of Congress.

Madam Speaker, in conclusion, each of these bills in here has been heard by the committee of jurisdiction. It's had a hearing. It's had a markup. The difference between this and other bills that we have seen in the past is that everything had to go through regular order first. Nothing was included in this rule that had not gone through regular order through this particular committee.

It's a good bill. It's a good rule. It's a fair rule, and I urge its adoption.

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