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Issue Position: Public Lands & the Environment

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Public Lands & the Environment

Senator Maria Cantwell believes we have a responsibility to protect our state and nation's rugged natural beauty and pristine and historic lands for the collective benefit of current and future generations. From stopping drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to expanding Mt. Rainier National Park, to creating the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park at the mouth of the Columbia River, she has worked tirelessly to preserve our amazing natural treasures while boosting Washington's recreation and tourism industries at the same time.

Permanently Protecting Our Nation's Last Remaining Pristine Forestlands

Maria has worked to protect 58.5 million acres of our nation's last remaining pristine forestlands, including two million acres in Washington state, which provide unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities, critical fish and wildlife habitat, and clean drinking water for millions of Americans. Since taking office, Maria has introduced legislation to make law the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a balanced and reasoned approach to forest management on untouched public lands. Unfortunately, the Rule has been rejected by the Bush Administration, leaving these pristine lands vulnerable unless Maria's legislation is approved by Congress.

Stopping Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge

Maria has championed protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, America's last great wild frontier, thwarting efforts to allow oil and gas drilling on the refuge's coastal plain. Maria believes that destroying a national wildlife refuge is not the answer to our nation's energy problems and will only exacerbate our addiction to oil. A study by the Department of Energy shows that even if we allowed oil companies to drill in the refuge, gas prices would only come down by one penny when the area reached peak production in 2025. Maria also opposes the backdoor tactics used by drilling proponents, including attempts to waive bedrock environmental safeguards and downplaying oil spills in the nearby North Slope area.

Creating the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

In 2004, the president signed into law Maria's legislation to create a Lewis and Clark National Historic Park at the entrance to the Columbia River. The Park preserves three sites in Washington state, totaling 560 acres, on the lower Columbia River that played crucial roles during the Corps of Discovery expedition's dramatic arrival at the Pacific Ocean - Clark's Dismal Nitch, Station Camp, and part of Cape Disappointment. During the expedition's bicentennial anniversary, thousands of visitors visited the new Park to learn more and celebrate. Since passage of her bill, Maria has worked with the Park Service to make sure these lands are permanently protected.

Expanding Mount Rainier National Park

Maria expanded the boundaries of Mt. Rainier National Park by roughly 800 acres - the largest expansion in over 70 years. Thanks to her legislation, access for visitors to the park's northwest entrance has been improved, a new campsite has been built, and taxpayers are saving money with reduced maintenance needs. Maria continues to work to make sure that the authorized properties are purchased from the willing private landowners.

Making Sure Polluters Pay for Cleanup

Maria has fought to make sure corporations don't shirk cleanup responsibilities at polluted sites. She has worked to help ensure complete cleanup and redevelopment of the Asarco Superfund site on Commencement Bay and hold Canadian company Teck Cominco accountable for decades of cross-border dumping into Lake Roosevelt. Maria has introduced the Cleanup Assurance and Polluter Accountability (CAPA) Act to address loopholes and lax enforcement that allow companies with environmental liabilities to manipulate corporate bankruptcy laws to avoid cleanup responsibilities and force taxpayers to cover cleanup costs. The bill is based on recommendations from Maria's 2001 request for a 3-year investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

Supporting Clean Alternative Energy and Reducing Fossil Fuel Use

Maria believes that America must reduce its dependence on foreign oil and develop clean, innovative solutions to our nation's energy needs. She has been a consistent advocate of measures to reduce oil imports, promote greater use of domestically produced biofuels, and increase the availability of flex fuel vehicles. Most recently, Maria introduced the Clean Energy Development of a Growing Economy (Clean EDGE) Act, a comprehensive bill based on an aggressive goal: to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by almost 6 million barrels a day in 2020—or 40 percent of America's projected imports. By clearing the pathways to innovation, investing in our workers and infrastructure, and providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices, the Clean EDGE initiative also delivers real energy security for the 21st Century. To support biofuels and flex fuel vehicles in Washington, Maria has also created a guide to help citizens jumpstart their own alternative fuel projects or find an ethanol or biodiesel station near where they live.

Helping Launch a Washington State Biofuels Industry

Last October, Maria convened the Biofuels Business Collaborative—a group of Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers—to help create a strong Washington biofuels industry. Producing biofuels alternatives with Washington grown crops or woody material can help reduce fuel transportation costs and provide real competition at the gas pump. Maria also helped broker several agreements that will help jumpstart the Washington state biofuels market including a commitment by the Port of Seattle and its tenants to purchase one million gallons of biodiesel annually, working with officials from the Port of Grays Harbor and representatives from Seattle Biodiesel to develop one of the nation's largest biodiesel plants at the Port of Grays Harbor, and securing funding to help Puget Sound ferries to use biodiesel.

Supporting the County Payments Program and Blocking Efforts to Sell Off Public Lands

Maria is working to reauthorize the successful County Payments program, which supports communities that have traditionally depended on revenue from timber harvests on Forest Service land. Without this vital safety net, rural counties across Washington would lose more than $40 million dollars in irreplaceable funding each year for critical public services such as education, emergency response, and road maintenance. Maria and senators from both parties have worked to oppose a recent short-sighted Administration proposal to sell off over 300,000 acres of public land to fund less than 50 percent of the County Payments program for only 5 years.

Cleaning Up Hanford

Maria believes the federal government must honor its commitment to clean up Hanford, and has pushed for honesty, progress, and accountability. She has worked with Senator Patty Murray to ensure adequate funding, and has pressured Department of Energy officials to stick to their legally required cleanup timetables. Maria has fought tirelessly against Energy Department plans to leave radioactive nuclear waste in leaking, underground tanks.

Creating an Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail

Maria led a bipartisan Senate coalition to create an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail through portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The proposed trail will show visitors how a series of monumental floods created the unique geology of Central and Eastern Washington. With interpretive centers, signs and markers, exhibits, waysides, and roadside pullouts, the National Trail will boost tourism, help invigorate rural Central and Eastern Washington communities, and provide a valuable educational tool.

Wild and Scenic River Status for the Upper White Salmon

In August 2005, the president signed into law Maria's legislation to permanently protect a 20-mile stretch of the Upper White Salmon River and one of its tributaries as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. The designation will permanently safeguard important wildlife habitat, maintain a premiere recreational and water sport destination, and preserve an economic resource for Southwest Washington.

Supporting a Wild Sky Wilderness Area

Maria is working with Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rick Larsen to create a new wilderness area in the Cascades just north of Highway 2. The proposed Wild Sky Wilderness area would protect 106,000 acres of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for a host of outdoor recreational activities and is the result of years of bipartisan collaboration, community involvement, and hard work. Unfortunately, while Maria helped push the bill through the Senate since her election, the bill has failed to clear the House of Representatives.

Addressing Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental challenges we face as a nation. Maria believes we should begin to act now to control our growing emissions and not leave a warmer, more dangerous world for our children. Pacific Northwest scientists say climate change will affect our water cycle, hurting hydropower generation and unique Washington ecosystems. Maria has supported a major shift to move away from fossil fuels, and has supported bipartisan legislation to use market based mechanisms to curb the growth of greenhouse gasses.

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