Policy Update Oct 7, 2015

Position on H.R. 974, H.R. 1452, and H.R. 2406

NPCA submitted the following positions on legislation considered during the House Natural Resource Committee markup on October 7-8, 2015.

H.R. 974: Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act – NPCA opposes this legislation because it threatens to lift existing protections and policies on hand-propelled vessels on hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The National Park Service would be required to study the use of hand-propelled vessels for up to 6,500 miles of backcountry streams and rivers and develop new regulations within three years. This is an extensive area within both parks which would need careful, science-based evaluation. The bill prescribes this costly, but necessary process while providing no funding source.

We expect Rep. Lummis to offer an amendment to this bill that would require the National Park Service to allow hand-propelled vessel use on nearly 450 miles of rivers and streams in Yellowstone and Grand Teton irrespective of potential visitor and wildlife conflicts and the potential to spread invasive species, among other concerns. The amendment does not narrow the original study area nor address the additional funding needed for the study.

The continued success of the national park idea depends upon world-class stewardship of park resources and wildlife with public access. The existing regulations in Yellowstone and Grand Teton that allow paddling on certain waterways provide that balance. This bill and the proposed amendment are no way to manage two of our most iconic national parks. NPCA strongly recommends voting against H.R. 974 and the Lummis amendment.

H.R. 1452: To authorize Escambia County, Florida, to convey certain property that was formerly part of Santa Rosa Island National Monument and that was conveyed to Escambia County subject to restrictions on use and reconveyance – NPCA opposes this legislation as written because the transfer of lands without the following amendments—as proposed by the National Park Service—could cause irreparable harm to the resources of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Specifically, the lands owned by Escambia County that do not otherwise have a person or entity holding a leasehold interest in that property, should continue to preserve the undeveloped beach for continued access. While the bill references “conservation… in accordance with resolutions heretofore adopted by the Board of County Commissioners”, the county could change its land use definition in the future allowing for a waterpark or other damaging development. In addition, there should be a prohibition against constructing a channel through Santa Rosa Island, as any new channel and ancillary jetty construction would have long-term, detrimental impacts on the Fort Pickens area of the Seashore and lands owned by NPS. Lastly, the Seashore should be allowed to accept any conservation easements of these lands and any lands not managed in accordance with this bill should revert back to the federal government. Recognizing these concerns, and the potential damage to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPCA recommends voting against H.R. 1452 unless these changes are made.

H.R. 2406: Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2015 “SHARE Act”

Provisions in the underlying bill:

NPCA opposes Section 604 of Title VI which 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 hunters. Imposing this unprecedented requirement on national park units including national parks, national historical parks, national military parks, and national memorials, among other units, could conflict with other visitors and stewardship responsibilities. The National Park Service should retain its authority to make these decisions especially where these serious conflicts could present themselves. This provision is a clear continuation of attempts by pro-hunting interests to insert hunting into national park units where it doesn’t belong. The provision should be amended to exclude the National Park Service or it should be opposed.

NPCA opposes Title IX because, at a time when this Congress has allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire, this proposal has the potential to further deplete the resources needed to acquire land necessary to protect American taxpayers’ investment in many of our most precious places. This proposal further perpetuates the mythology that land acquisition, rather than years of inadequate investment by this and prior congresses, is responsible for maintenance backlogs in the national parks and elsewhere. Congress would do better to make the investments that are needed, rather than pretend to do so while cannibalizing successful programs that preserve our national treasures.

Proposed Amendments:

Huffman: We expect Rep. Huffman to offer an amendment that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, which expired a week ago on September 30, 2015. NPCA supports this amendment that directs Congress to invest a small portion of federal offshore drilling receipts into a fund to protect America’s treasured landscapes and cultural heritage. LWCF funding allows the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies to purchase properties from willing sellers within parks and other protected areas. LWCF is a program that works, with a 50-year track record of successful locally-driven projects and that success should be carried into the future with a permanent reauthorization.

Radewagen: We expect Rep. Radewagen to offer an amendment that mirrors H.R. 3310, the “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act.” NPCA opposes this overreaching proposal that could have far-reaching effects on the National Park Service’s ability to manage resources in 86 coastal national parks across the country. The proposal would derail the final, and fully vetted management plan for Biscayne National Park and would strip the National Park Service of its legal responsibility to protect resources in all coastal national parks, under the 1916 Organic Act, by substituting a lower standard of protection. Many of these coastal parks, including Acadia National Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and Channel Islands National Park, could see a weakening in regulations designed to preserve marine wildlife if this proposal were to become law. The federal government is obligated to protect these resources in perpetuity for the enjoyment and use of all Americans.

Gosar: We expect Rep. Gosar to offer an amendment to allow hunting of hybrid bison in Grand Canyon National Park. NPCA opposes this amendment. The National Park Service is currently preparing a Bison Management Plan and will soon make recommendations on the removal or management of the hybrid bison in the park—this amendment is premature.