NPCA submitted the following positions to the House Committee on Natural Resources ahead of a markup scheduled for May 16, 2018.
H.R. 857: California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act – The California desert is world renowned for its vast and scenic landscapes. It is home to five of the nation’s most iconic national park sites (Castle Mountains, Death Valley, Manzanar, Mojave, and Joshua Tree); four remarkable national monuments, and many famous Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wilderness areas; it frames the sheer vertical prominence of the Eastern Sierra; and is home to a spectacular diversity of natural and geologic features.
NPCA supports the conservation provisions within H.R. 857—Sec. 1301 and 1302 of Sec. 2, Title XIV of Sec. 2, and Sec. 5—to increase the protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of remarkable public lands and waters across the California desert. Additionally, NPCA recognizes there must be dedicated spaces for the off-road community to legally ride off-road vehicles. NPCA has worked in partnership with communities and elected officials across the California desert for nearly a decade on many of the provisions in this legislation. As a result of our longstanding investment in this landscape, NPCA has the following concerns about the bill:
- H.R. 857 would reduce the Bowling Alley addition to Death Valley National Park, to 28,000 acres rather than the 32,500 acres found in S. 32. This reduction is focused on providing vehicular access to the Avawatz Mountains, an area proposed as designated Wilderness in H.R. 857. This proposed reduction to Death Valley National Park is not consistent with the management regime in the area nor the protection of resources in and around the proposed expansion.
- H.R. 857 does not protect Mojave National Preserve’s water resources from export. This is a key issue for wildlife, Native American tribes, ranchers, local communities, such as Needles, CA, and rural landowners in the East Mojave and is widely supported across the California desert.
- H.R. 857 does not include an important provision to direct the Department of Interior to study the impact of climate change to California desert migratory species, and thereafter to incorporate those results in the consideration of future right-of-way decisions.
- We are concerned with the exemption of the Great Falls Basin Wilderness from designation as a Class I Airshed under the Clean Air Act. We believe the Great Falls Basin Wilderness meets the fundamental standards for this more protective designation.
- H.R. 857 requires the BLM to study at least 52,000 acres of their lands in the California desert for possible addition to the proposed National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas and that the Secretary approve the addition of any recommended lands. We would like to see this expansion language broadened to include standards that clearly preclude harm to sensitive lands or species.
H.R. 3186: Every Kid Outdoors Act – This bill would codify a widely popular initiative started during the Centennial year of the National Park Service. NPCA supports this bill to incentivize young people and their families to experience and appreciate our national parks and other federal lands and waters.
H.R. 3916: Federally Integrated Species Health Act (FISH Act) – NPCA opposes this legislation to transfer management of anadromous and catadromous species from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Fish populations are important components of national park ecosystems across the country, and endangered species such as salmon at Olympic National Park and Atlantic sturgeon at Colonial National Historical Park, rely on protections provided under the Endangered Species Act for their ongoing recovery. Transferring the management of these species from NMFS would fragment current protection efforts and potentially setback the long-term health of the species.
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Climate and Conservation Program Manager.