The Wilderness Society Speaks – for Wildlife Habitat

Posted from The Wilderness Society, 1615 M. Street, NW, Washington DC 20036 Telephone: 1-800-THE-WILD / www.wilderness.org

When Congress returns to Washington in November 2014, The Wilderness Society will be ready to hold back a powerful minority of virulent anti-conservationist in both houses who will take every opportunity to open our wildlands to development.  The Wilderness Society’s mission, is to put a stop to a slew of bad bills, while pushing for passage of important legislation to protect our wilderness.

Worst Nightmares

National Forest Jobs and Management Act of 2014

This bill would result in a massive increase in loggiing and other mechanical operations across millions of acres of national forests in the West, while simultaneously weakening bedrock environmental laws and providing no additional conservation protections to offset these impacts.  This bill poses a serious threat to environmentl stewardship, public involvement, wildlife conservation, and the rule of law in our national forests.

Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act

Contrary to its name, this legislation is a grave threat to essential hunting and fishing habitat and undermines critical environmental protections.  It would also weaken protection for the 110 million acres of land safeguarded by America’s National Wilderness Preservation System by including provisions that could open protected wilderness areas to motorized vehicles, road construction, and other forms of development, and fails to conserve any fish and wildlife habitat.  Undermining habitat protections in wilderness is not good for sportsmen, and it is certainly not good for wildlife or wildlands.

Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act

If enacted, this bill would radicaly change the management of our national forests. It would force the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize massive increases in logging at the expense of all other uses of the national forests.  It would also give county governments the unprecedented ability to sue the federal government to enforce these logging requirements. This runs entirely counter to the bedrock laws and regulations governing national forest management.  Environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act would be eliminated or greatly restricted.  The result would be a vast increase in environmentally destructive and intensely controversial clear-cutting of our national forests.

Ensuing Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act

Also known as the “No New National Parks Bill”, this legislation aims to undermine the Antiquities Act of 1906, which grants presidental authority to establish new national monuments.   The Antiquities Act is our nation’s most important conservation tool, used by nearly every president since its introduction to conserve iconic sites including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Arches National Park. This bill would cap how many times the Antiquities Act can be used by a president, and would require congressional review of any proposed monuments. The irony of mandating congressional review is ripe since the Antiquities Act was enacted by Congress so that presidents could move swiftly in the face of congressional inaction to protect areas that showcase America’s natural, cultural, and historic beauty.

Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act in 2014

This act would seek to dramactically increase oil and gas drilling on public lands and curtail public involvement in land use decisions.  It would put oil companies in charge of nominating places to drill while putting the onus on the Department of Interior to quickly decide whether or not to allow it.  The bill would overturn the administration’s well balanced decision on use of the National Petroleum Reserve and open up sensitive Alaska wildlands, which are currently protected, to”maximum development of oil and gas resources.”

Best Opportunities

Land and Water Conservation and Reauthorization Act of 2013

This bipartisan bill would provide dedicated annual funding of $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund [LWCF] as authorized by Congress, and finally make real the promise that was made to the American people almost 50 years ago. Congress made a committment to the American public tht a small portion of revenues from offshore drilling paid by oil companies would go to conservation and outdoor recreation programs.  Yet nearly every year, the majority of these funds are diverted to other unintended purposes.  This bill would finally stop Congress from raiding the LWCF funds that have been specifically put aside from offshore royalties, and use them for their intended purpose of conservation.

Wildfire Disaster Funding Act

This bipartisan bill would end the disruptive practice of “fire borrowing” and treat catastrophic wildfires like all other natural disasters.  As things stand now, funds for conservation and management programs are often diverted to pay for fire response and suppression.  This bill would ensure that adequate funding is available for both wildfire suppression and management practices which help reduce the impact of future catastrophic wildfires.

Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013

In addition to ensuring clean energy on public lands is developed in an environmentally responsible way, the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act would use a portion of revenue collected from wind and solar projects for conservation and outdoor recreation.  This money would help restore fish and wildlife habitat, repair trails, and improve access to public lands.

Wilderness Protection

There are currently several bills in both chambers of Congress to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of new wilderness.  These include Alpine Lakes in Washington State, Hermosa Creek in Colorado, Columbine Hondo in New Mexico, Coastal Islands off the shoreof Maine, the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, and the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana, to name a few.  All of these bills have been advanced in one or both chambers despiite unprecedented levels of partisanship, and each represents an exciting opportunity to protect critical wildlands for future generations.

National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

This bill would keep more trails open and accessible by expanding the use of volunteer and partner organizations and provide increased focus on a handful of priority areas around the country.  More than 50 diverse recreation and conservation groups came together in support of the legislation after a study last year found the Forest Service trail system is being squeezed between the demands of growing public use and shrinking budgets.  According to that report, the maintenance backlog for forest trails exceeds $314 million and this threatens to limit public access, harm natural resources, and increase future maintenance costs.  This bill is essential to addressing the pressures on the National Forest trail system and the Forest Service budget.


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