Policy Update Aug 20, 2018

Position on S. 483, S. 2809 & S. 2907

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Public Lands, Forests, and Mining Subcommittee ahead of a hearing scheduled for August 22, 2018.

S. 483: Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – NPCA supports this legislation to designate wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in Washington state. This bill protects the ecosystems and recreational opportunities around Olympic National Park, including trail systems, habitats and vistas. The river protections will create essential connections for salmon between the mountains and the sea, especially along the Elwha River which is a world-class river restoration project within the park’s largest watershed.

S. 2809: Emery County Public Land Management Act – NPCA opposes this legislation because of concerns about several provisions related to motor vehicle travel in southern Utah. These provisions could undermine a settlement agreement on the BLM’s Resource Management Plan (RMP) for which NPCA was a plaintiff and set a precedent for how vehicle routes and Revised Statue (RS) 2477 claims on public lands are addressed around the state and country, including within and adjacent to national park units.

The legislation also lists all motorized routes and trails as “Cherry Stemmed Routes” on the legislative map. As section 101©(2) grants the map the “same force and effect” as the legislative language, cherry-stemming routes on the map results in all shown motorized routes and trails being exempted from the NCA and wilderness. This approach: (1) effectively ensures that the routes will remain open in perpetuity, undermining the aforementioned settlement agreement; (2) fragments these protected areas with “excluded” routes; and (3) creates a conflicting management situation for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as motorized travel would be managed without consideration of, or consistency with, the NCA and wilderness designations.

Additionally, the bill’s provision excluding motorized routes and trails from the National Conservation Areas (NCA) and Wilderness Areas also fails to address RS2477 claims within the protected areas. By not explicitly abandoning the RS2477 claims in the legislation, the protected areas will be at risk of future RS2477 claims and incompatible vehicle route development, maintenance and motorized use. A true conservation gain for Emery County and an opportunity to help resolve a portion of Utah’s longstanding RS2477 legal battle, would be achieved by including language in the bill relinquishing the State of Utah’s RS2477 claims within the NCAs and Wilderness Areas.

S. 2907: Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act – NPCA supports this legislation to withdraw the lands around Chaco Culture National Historical Park from further oil and gas development by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), protecting the Chacoan ruins and the larger landscape and sites that surround the park. Chaco Canyon National Historic Park is a unique landscape that tells the story of one of North America’s oldest cultures, and we should not allow our cultural legacy to become an island in a sea of development. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987 for preserving outstanding elements of Chacoan culture. This landscape is sacred ancestral homeland to Pueblo Tribes and current home to many Navajo communities vulnerable to the negative impacts of oil and gas development.