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Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. I thank the gentleman very much.

This, as we have heard, is a package of bills dealing with lands, and it is as partisan as can be. I wish that we were working in a bipartisan way. We could have a real lands package that would go somewhere. We could have addressed preservation of open space. This is important all across the country.

I often hear from my colleague from Utah and others that, well, people in New Jersey don't have a lot of Federal lands. Let me tell you, this is important for people in New Jersey and every one of the other 49 States and in the territories of the United States. My constituents, who live in the most densely populated State in the Union, have demonstrated again and again their support for open space preservation, for fighting sprawl, for providing for their kids and their kids' kids with safe places to experience the outdoors.

This legislation does so many bad things I hardly know where to begin. It's another attempt to remove most of the protections of environmental laws. And as you've heard from the ranking member, Mr. Markey, it establishes an intrusive domestic security enforcement zone, a drone zone.

Call it cute if you want, but as the ranking member said, if you're going to go to Big Bend or Acadia or any of the other national parks that fall in this, you'd better pay attention. It will do nothing to make us more secure.

I could talk all day about the problems in this bill, but let me just focus on one. One reason that this bill is not going anywhere legislatively, because it is so extreme, is the controversial provision it contains on the brazen effort to give away part of the Tongass National Forest.

The Tongass National Forest is known as a crown jewel of the National Forest System. Encompassing 17 million acres in southeast Alaska's panhandle, it's the last remaining intact temperate rainforest. It's the only remnant of the temperate rainforests that used to stretch from Northern California to Prince William Sound. Only half of the very large old-growth tree stands that used to cover the Tongass remain, and even the second growth land is spectacular. The other side was talking about how, well, some of this is not first-growth forest and, therefore, it's okay to give away to spoil. Now over a million people throughout the country--really, throughout the world--visit the Tongass National Forest annually to view the forest virtually unspoiled.

The bill before us today transfers 100,000 acres of the best of the best lands in southeast Alaska to the Sealaska Corporation, including the fine salmon streams, the areas most visited, recreational sites and tourist sites, as well as subsistence sites. This bill gives public lands to a private company, which some might call an earmark. Well, whatever you call it, it's an unjustified giveaway.

And since we're speaking of lands, I'd like to point out that I have introduced legislation to help preserve battlefields from the American Revolution and the War of 1812, legislation based on and including a very successful program to preserve civil war battlefields. This legislation, my bill, passed out of committee unanimously. Why was this not included in this bill? We could have been more bipartisan.

My colleague, Mr. Markey, has gone through a long list and others have gone through a long list of the problems with this legislation. Suffice it to say, this is not about preserving lands for the long-term enjoyment and benefit of the American people.


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