Policy Update Sep 21, 2016

Position on S. 437, S. 1416, S. 3317, S. 2991 and S. 3203

NPCA submitted the following positions to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ahead of a hearing on September 22, 2016.

NPCA opposes S. 437, S. 1416, and S. 3317 that would limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to designate new national monuments and/or would place unnecessary roadblocks to the protection of important and sensitive places for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Antiquities Act was created by Congress to allow the president to permanently protect irreplaceable national treasures at times when Congress is unwilling or unable to act swiftly. The Antiquities Act has withstood the test of time and has been available as a conservation tool for presidents of both parties; eight Republicans and eight Democrats have designated 151 national monuments under this authority. Important and nationally significant cultural, historical, and natural sites have been protected through the Antiquities Act including Grand Canyon and Acadia National Parks, Statue of Liberty and Muir Woods National Monuments, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Altering the authority, or exempting certain states from the critical federal lands conservation statute, would not serve the American people and the public lands that they continue to enjoy year after year.

NPCA supports S. 2991, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act that would withdraw lands in the Upper Methow Valley in the North Cascades from mineral entry and exploration. This wild and beautiful region, a component of the ecosystem surrounding North Cascades National Park, is rare and special for its recreational, scenic and wildlife values, and should be protected for generations to come. Mineral exploration and potential subsequent mining would bring noise, air pollution, water degradation and disruption to this natural setting which is enjoyed by visitors and residents, and is critical to the survival of protected wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves and wolverines. These threatened features are drivers of an economic engine for local tourism and recreation businesses, estimated at $150 million annually for Okanogan County.

NPCA opposes S. 3203, the Alaska Economic Development and Access to Resources Act, due to significant concerns about Sections 101 and 403. These sections would likely impair national park resources and the management and protection of treasured Alaska lands owned by all Americans. For example, Section 101 increases Alaska state entitlements to federal land if the federal government does not develop a plan to produce more oil on federal land. This transfer could have significant impacts on the management of lands adjacent to national parks, preserves, and monuments, leading to potentially significant resource impacts. In addition, Section 403 regarding the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) suggests potentially broad changes to the management and protection of public lands. This section is written such that it could undo any federal regulation applied to lands managed by the National Park Service under ANILCA, and thereby may significantly limit the Park Service’s ability to protect invaluable historic, cultural, or natural park resources.