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Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act is aimed squarely at cutting government red tape and bureaucracy to boost local economic development and job creation. This legislation contains 14 commonsense bills from the House Natural Resources Committee, nearly all of which have received bipartisan support.

By solving problems and reducing red tape, this legislation will have a real impact on the people it affects. Among its many economic and job creation benefits, the bill will encourage tourism and recreation by ensuring public access to public lands. It will promote responsible use of our resources. It will protect the environment. It will secure Federal lands along our borders. And it promotes clean and renewable hydropower.

Month after month, Mr. Chairman, Republicans in Congress have been focused on encouraging and supporting new job creation. The House has passed over 30 job creation bills that sit in the Senate, where Democrat leaders have refused to take any action.

By reducing red tape, promoting American-made energy, and streamlining bureaucracy, we can start creating jobs for tens of millions of Americans who are looking for work. The Conservation and Economic Growth Act fits into this same job creation mold.

When it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency, the American public is well aware of the ability of this Federal agency to slow our economy with debilitating regulations. And when it comes to our Federal lands, which are predominated located in the Western part of the United States, there is plenty of bureaucracy and red tape to go around.

In that regard, there are four primary Federal land management agencies: the Bureau of Land Management; the Forest Service; the Fish & Wildlife Service; and the National Park Service. Combined, they manage over 600 million acres of Federal land and have over 60,000 Federal employees. Many of these Federal employees do important, helpful work. But there are many times when their actions or outdated Federal laws have a tremendous negative impact on their surrounding communities. But these Federal policies, restrictions, lawsuits, and the bureaucratic decisions can harm local economies and the public's ability to access public lands for the multiple uses for which these public lands were intended.

It doesn't have to take Federal spending or taxpayer money to solve these problems. It simply takes Congress making commonsense changes in laws and regulations to restore reasonableness, transparency, accountability, and, yes, Mr. Chairman, sometimes sanity to the actions of the Federal Government.

That is the purpose of this underlying legislation: to fix local and national problems caused by Federal red tape and policies that are harming the public and our economy throughout America. We will hear more specific information from the sponsors of these solutions during the debate this afternoon.

Mr. Chairman, this legislation also reflects the promises of House Republicans when they were elected as a new majority in 2010. The Conservation and Economic Growth Act is an efficient way to uphold Republicans' commitment to an open and transparent House.

The text of the act has been online since last Tuesday and available for Members and the public to read now for a week. Each and every one of the 14 bills that is in this package has had a public hearing, has been open to amendment in the committee, has been voted on in the committee, and amendments will be debated and voted on here today by the full House.

Now, Mr. Chairman, this stands in stark contrast to the previous way of doing business, when we had monster omnibus bills that were forced through the House without any chance of amendment. In fact, one can compare this small 14-bill package that has undergone full public and legislative review with the 2009 monster omnibus lands bill enacted into law when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The 2009 omnibus bill was over 1,200 pages in length, it cost $10 billion, and it contained over 170 bills, including 75 that had never been considered in the House.

Yet through all of this process, not one single amendment was allowed to be offered, and even the minority--the Republicans at that time--were denied an opportunity with the motion to recommit.

Well, those days of the monster omnibus are over. No longer will controversial bills that haven't seen the light of day be hidden deep inside a thousand-page bill. Since the start of this Congress, we reviewed bills one by one in the Natural Resources Committee. Each has had a public subcommittee hearing; and once the committee acts, the full House considers them in a transparent manner.

This bill, the underlying legislation we're dealing with, lives up to this standard. It is an antidote to the abusive processes of the past. It is a bite-sized package that can be easily read and today is getting a thorough debate on the House floor.

So now the House can act to approve this bill to roll back red tape, to restore some commonsense to solve problems, and to boost economic activity. This bill deserves bipartisan support, and I urge my colleagues to vote for its passage.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CANSECO. Is it the chairman's understanding that, after adoption of the manager's amendment, the bill contains reforms that would only allow for lands to come into the park via donation or exchange, and that these reforms apply only to the land coming into the park boundary as a result of the legislation before us?

Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. The gentleman is correct, with the adoption of the manager's amendment.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, let's go back to the basic issue, really, that's facing this country--and I alluded to it in my opening statement. What Americans really want is jobs. And while this package of bills is in line with that, what it really does is add some certainty to those that live in and around Federal lands. Therefore, allowing for at least some certainty as it relates to jobs, but probably as important, if not more important, is access to our public lands for those that want to utilize our public lands.

There's been much discussion here about how this bill does some damage to the environment. Well, let me just touch on a couple of issues that were mentioned on the other side and I think it needs to be clarified, at least here, before this debate is over.

First, the reference was made to sea lions that were guilty of one thing, and that was eating only fish. Well, I happen to be the author of the title of that bill. Let me clarify. There's a rest-of-the-story here. We had a hearing in the full committee of the Natural Resources Committee today on the Endangered Species Act. I think, frankly, it hasn't been reauthorized for 25 years, and I think we need to update that act to make sure that we recover species. And my colleagues on the other side of the aisle said it's a great act. That's good. We at least have some establishment of commonality.

The reason that provision is in the bill regarding sea lions is that salmon are listed as threatened on the Columbia River. And as they move upstream after coming back from the ocean, they get crowded going up Bonneville Dam. Now, there's a nonindigenous animal called the California sea lion that comes up there and feasts on these fish as they're going through the Bonneville Dam. So it's destroying an endangered species. The California sea lion is not listed as endangered, and they're not indigenous.

So that part of the legislation simply allows for lethal taking of those sea lions so the fish can pass upstream and spawn. Nothing more than that. It's a cute way, to borrow a phrase, to say that they're guilty of only eating fish. But there's more to that story.

This legislation also encourages the development of renewable hydropower. What could be cleaner than that? It promotes healthy forest and prevents forest fires, as my colleague from northern California just said in regard to the title of the act he has in there. It restores access to different parks for recreational purposes in the North Cascades and at Cape Hatteras on the Atlantic Coast, and it preserves old growth in Alaska.

So, Mr. Chairman, there is a lot to be liked about this bill, but it seems most of the discussion is around title XIV.

Let me read the title of title XIV one more time. It is the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. Now why do we need that? Because, unfortunately, there are those that want to come into our country illegally, and they don't have the same feelings as we do about our public lands. When they come through illegally, in many cases, they trash those lands. We're simply giving the Border Patrol more tools to protect those public lands and to provide for our national security. I don't know why anybody on the floor of this House should be opposed to that aspect. That's all that title XIV does, as was explained very well by the author of that provision, Mr. Bishop of Utah.

So, Mr. Chairman, this bill is worth supporting. It has been developed in a bipartisan method. It has been developed in a transparent method, having gone through the committee process.

I urge adoption, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition, obviously, to this amendment because this amendment would single out one particular group of Native Alaskans for restrictions that currently only apply to timber harvested from certain Federal lands in the lower 48.

Now, the irony here, as was pointed out by the gentleman from Alaska, is that the Forest Service in the Tongass allows for 100 percent export of red cedar harvested in the Tongass and 50 percent of old growth harvested in the Tongass. So I think it is, in all honesty, Mr. Chairman, a bit hypocritical to impose the domestic limitations on Natives while the Forest Service is doing just exactly the opposite.

Now, I'll also add that this amendment does not affect other landowners on the Tongass; it only affects the Natives of Sealaska. Now, I don't think that's really what we should be doing here on the floor of the House is singling out one group for a penalty, and that's precisely what this amendment does.

So I urge rejection of this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washngton. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, this is a very interesting debate. But let's just put some facts as to what this amendment would do. It would amount to a nearly 75 percent increase on the fees for public land grazers. Now, let me emphasize the word ``public land,'' because we hear this all the time, and the idea is that public land is owned by all Americans, even people that live in States where there's not any Federal lands.

But I would just, Mr. Chairman, advise my colleagues that people that live on public lands own the public lands too. If the first argument is correct, then the second argument is also correct.

What is interesting about this grazing fee debate is, if this gazing fee is raised, it could potentially put livestock producers out of business. Now, maybe that is what the goal is of my good friend from Massachusetts, because that is certainly the stated goal of some environmental extremist groups.

What is also interesting and, as was pointed out by my colleague from Idaho, when you operate on Federal lands you are subjected to endless litigation and review stemming from NEPA and outside attacks by environmental groups.

But probably more important, and this is the distinguishing part on this whole debate: some people claim that these ranchers are subsidized. But the fact is, when the West was settled, we were never given an opportunity to buy these lands for State purposes, and they remained in Federal control. And so as a result, everybody has a say in public lands.

What my colleague from Idaho is simply saying is, if we had control of our public lands, whether it's State land or private or county, we would probably manage it better. But we don't have that opportunity because we were never given the opportunity. And so, as a result, we have to fight off these huge increases that come from people that probably have a different notion, different idea of what it's like.

So I think this is an ill-advised amendment, and I urge its rejection.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I've had an opportunity several times to come down here to debate the motions to recommit, and I've prefaced virtually every time I've come down here with, history repeats itself.

Mr. Speaker, history is repeating itself one more time. Why do I say that? Because probably the biggest issue that Americans are concerned about is jobs. This is another effort that deals with American jobs by dealing with regulation that slows down economic activity.

So what does the other side do? They try to put up another impediment to a bill that is straightforward, had transparency in committee, had a full debate in committee, and put together to debate on the floor. It's the same arguments that we have that, frankly, are meaningless.

Now, to the essence of what the gentleman's amendment does. All of this is essentially redundant. It's in law right now.

Is this just a political move on the minority's part? Is that what it is?

If the issue is really trying to deal with firefighting in the West, I would remind this body, Mr. Speaker, that 2 weeks ago, we passed legislation to allow the Forest Service to buy tankers to fight forest fires. We've already done that.

All I can say, Mr. Speaker, is that history repeats itself. Let's vote down this motion to recommit and let's vote for the jobs bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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