Policy Update Jan 28, 2015

Position on Amendments to S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act

NPCA submitted the following positions regarding amendments to S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, to the Senate in January 2015.

Oppose #18: The Fischer amendment would stall and create obstacles for providing the best protection for our national park sites. It creates hurdles for the National Park Service and other land management agencies when they seek to add better protection for cultural artifacts, battlefields, fossils, wildlife habitat, rivers, historic sites and places for hiking, biking, kayaking and other forms of recreation. The amendment will essentially make it more difficult to provide new access to public lands, threatening a $600 billion outdoor recreational economy.

It also interferes with the implementation of numerous federal land protection laws already on the books, including monument designations under the Antiquities Act. It would impede wildly popular, bi-partisan programs supported across America by hunters, conservationists and business owners alike, including the use of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Duck Stamp funding, and wildlife refuge designations by the bi-partisan Migratory Bird Commission.

The amendment is excessively broad and applies to all federal agencies as well as to designations made for such broad and vague reasons as conserving “developmental resources.” This sweepingly broad amendment adds unnecessary layers of red tape, complicates the designation of all new federally protected lands, and increases the risk that unwanted development will occur within the boundaries of national parks. NPCA opposes this amendment and urges the Senate to vote “no.”

Oppose #71: If passed, this amendment would undermine the reasonable oversight and public review of oil and gas leasing on federal lands, putting national parks at risk. Amendment #71 would automatically approve permits to drill unless the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can act in an arbitrary and unrealistic 60 days. Setting such a short deadline would likely prevent the Department of the Interior from leasing lands in compliance will all its legal duties and requirements, and in a way that allows for the meaningful involvement of state and local governments. The forced approval of permits near national parks could threaten strong and stable local economies that rely on the outdoor tourism and recreational opportunities expected by millions of annual national park visitors.

Current oversight by the BLM is designed to provide balance between competing land uses and economic opportunities on federal lands. America’s national parks and the economies they support deserve better. We strongly urge the Senate to vote “no.”**

Oppose #132: The Antiquities Act allows the President of the United States to designate federal lands as national monuments for their historic, scientific and scenic significance, and has been fundamentally important in creating our national park system. These are not state lands, nor are they private. Out of all the national monuments designated from federal property since 1906, the National Park Service manages 75% of them. The Antiquities Act has withstood the test of time and has been available as a conservation tool for presidents from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, to George W. Bush and Barack Obama, so they could take swift action when necessary to protect important and sensitive places for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The law leaves undisturbed Congress’ authority to declare monuments, to determine the level of resources for the management and maintenance of presidentially proclaimed national monuments, and to re-designate any monument as a national park or other federal reserve.

Some past designations have been controversial, including the Grand Canyon. In light of that fact, the Obama Administration deserves credit for doing better and adhering to recommendations made in their 2011 America’s Great Outdoors Report to “Implement a transparent and open approach to new national monument designations tailored to engaging local, state and national interests” (Action Item 8.4a). National park monument designations in recent years have been the subject of significant public vetting. Such vetting is appropriate. But the designation of such national monuments on federal lands should not be held hostage to the schedules of state legislatures as would be the case with this amendment. The approval process could take years as some state legislatures meet every other year and other state legislatures meet for only two to three months per year.

Without the Antiquities Act, or with the types of impediments the Daines amendment proposes, it is quite conceivable our National Park System would lack many of these and other treasures including Zion, Acadia, Glacier Bay, Olympic, Grand Teton, Arches and the African Burial Ground. The Senate should be celebrating the benefits of the Antiquities Act, not undermining it. We urge the Senate to vote “no” on this shortsighted and ill-conceived amendment and vote to support our national parks.

Oppose #166: If passed, this amendment would threaten landscapes connected to national parks including important wildlife habitat, rivers, streams and other natural resources that cross boundaries. Amendment #166 would automatically release Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and areas recommended for wilderness preservation managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) if Congress has not designed the WSA as Wilderness within one year – an arbitrary deadline. The agencies recommended enhanced protection for these places for specific reasons enumerated in planning documents. This is part of the balanced management of our country’s natural resources. This amendment is not balanced – it only takes away protective status of land, but does not put any in place. For those reasons, we oppose amendment #166 and urge the Senate to vote “no.”

Support #48: Clean water is critically important to the health of national parks across the country. Amendment #48 would close a loophole in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) unless diesel is used. As shown in a 2013 report by NPCA, more than 130 national parks like directly above or adjacent to oil shale deposits, and water contaminated with hydraulic fracturing chemicals could affect many more. The 20 to 40 percent of injected fracking water that flows back to the surface during drilling and production contains chemicals and lubricants added during the fracking process, as well as natural pollutants such as salts, radium, and barium. We need to ensure that the safe production of oil and gas does not endanger the clean water flowing through our national parks. Oil and gas drillers should have to follow the same environmental rules as everyone else. NPCA supports amendment #48 and urges the Senate to vote “yes.”

Support #92: The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is far and away one of our country’s most important programs to protect natural, cultural, historical and recreational heritage. This program has protected sacred American battlefields as well as other cherished National Parks and fosters more efficient land management. The program is driven by willing sellers of private inholdings in protected areas that enhance the recreational economy.

Despite being chronically shortchanged, LWCF is a program that works, with a 50-year track record of successful locally-driven projects. But after 50 years of remarkable accomplishment, LWCF’s authorizing legislation is set to in September 2015. Reauthorization prior to that time is vital so that communities, landowners, and others relying on LWCF funding can make plans based on the future integrity of the fund.

The bipartisan amendment #92 filed by Senators Burr, Bennet, and Ayotte, would carry these flexible solutions into the future with a permanent reauthorization of LWCF. It’s a popular and economically important program; reauthorization just makes sense. NPCA supports amendment #92 and urges the Senate to vote “yes.”

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