Policy Update Sep 8, 2017

Position on H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act

NPCA submitted the following position to the House Natural Resources Committee ahead of a markup scheduled for September 13, 2017.

NPCA urges members of the committee to oppose H.R. 3668 – “Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act).”

NPCA is concerned with many of the bill’s provisions that seek to erode public engagement and participation in public land management decisions and the many waivers of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (Sec. 403(c )(2) for example). Our federal public lands belong to all Americans and the public should have the opportunity to provide input on how those lands are managed. NEPA has worked to protect our lands, waters, wildlife and visitor health for years. NPCA encourages the committee to ensure all Americans have adequate opportunity to participate in public land management decisions.

Title IV, Section 404, (a)-(b) – Volunteer Hunters

This section would require the National Park Service to use volunteer hunters to reduce wildlife populations unless the agency has permission from a respective state not to use volunteer hunters. Imposing this requirement on national park units including national parks, national historical parks, national military parks, and national memorials, among other sites, conflicts with the Park Service’s fundamental stewardship responsibilities of these sites. The National Park Service should retain its authority to make these decisions. We remain concerned by continued attempts to impose hunting in national park units where it conflicts with the visitor experience and values of the park.

Title VIII – State Approval of Fishing Restriction

Section 801 could have far-reaching effects on the National Park Service’s ability to manage resources in 88 coastal national parks across the country. The federal government is obligated to protect these resources in perpetuity for the enjoyment of all Americans. This overreaching provision would strip the National Park Service of its legal responsibility, under the 1916 Organic Act, to set reasonable limits on fishing to prevent overfishing, restore fish populations and habitats, and protect marine wildlife. The provision substitutes that responsibility with a lower standard of protection. Many coastal parks, including Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Channel Islands National Park, could see a weakening in regulations designed to preserve marine wildlife if this provision becomes law. Additionally, this provision would derail the final vetted management plan for Biscayne National Park, a park that desperately needs protection for its threatened coral reef ecosystem and marine wildlife.

Title XIV, Section 1401, (a)(2) and (b) – Reissuance of Final Rule Regarding Gray Wolves in Wyoming

In March 2017, a federal appeals court removed protections for gray wolves in Wyoming which allowed the State of Wyoming to move forward with its Wyoming Wolf Management Plan. The state has proceeded with season-setting meetings to establish quotas for how many and where wolves can be shot during an upcoming 2017 fall hunting season. Section 1602 is completely unnecessary since the state has already assumed management authority from the federal government and the Management Plan dictates how many breeding pairs and overall number of wolves are required under law. NPCA remains very concerned about how an aggressive hunt on the boundaries of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks will affect the future enjoyment of park wildlife by the millions of visitors who travel to these majestic parks to glimpse wolves in Wyoming.

Title XV – Hearing Protection

Due to the passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, individuals are now permitted to carry loaded guns in national parks per state regulations. NPCA believes in the balance between the rights of individuals to possess firearms under state and federal laws and hunt in areas of the National Park System where it is permitted, and the safety of national park visitors and wildlife. NPCA strongly urges the committee to consult with national park and federal land management agency law enforcement to understand how they will continue to protect employee and visitor safety and park resources if this provision becomes law.

Title XVII – Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA)

This title seeks to reauthorize an important land conservation program, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) but in doing so, makes damaging changes that undermine the program’s integrity. FLTFA is intended to be a land-for-land exchange that disposes of, through a public process, federal land parcels of little conservation value and uses the proceeds to purchase parcels of high natural, historic and/or recreational value within federally protected lands including national parks. Parcels are only purchased from willing sellers and help more efficiently consolidate the federal estate. However, Title XVII allows the Bureau of Land Management to divert funding from the program to federal land maintenance backlogs. Addressing the National Park Service backlog is a high priority for NPCA but diverting funds from other successful programs in this manner is not the way to address it. Backlogs and land acquisition both warrant congressional support.