2017 marked the beginning of a dangerous new era for anti-public lands behavior in the federal government. CalWild and its partners are united in facing the increasing number of threats coming from Congress and the Trump administration, and we’ll be tracking our resistance to the policies that pose the greatest threat to California’s public lands here.
We are also monitoring progress of a number of lower priority threats, which you can view here. These bills are currently considered a lower priority because they have not had any recent movement, not because they would be less of a threat if they were enacted
President Trump has staffed his cabinet with pro-industry bureaucrats and executives from powerful corporations like ExxonMobil, avidly neglecting the health of our natural resources and our local communities in the process. These appointments will make our job that much harder in the coming years, as well as making it that much more important that we engage everyone who is opposed to them and the policies they stand for.
Luckily, we know that the majority of Americans support public lands and wilderness areas, and that grassroots activism can generate real change at every level, even against the toughest odds.
Bad Bill Tracker: High Priority
Fast-tracks construction of the Temperance Flat Dam, which would drown the San Joaquin River which is recommended for Wild & Scenic protection by the BLM, as well as inundate a couple thousand acres of lands with wilderness characteristics. Reduces water deliveries to federal and state wildlife refuges in the Central Valley, increases pumping of water from the Delta, eliminates the San Joaquin River Salmon Restoration Program, and weakens the Endangered Species Act.
Valadao (CA), Nunes (CA), Rohrabacher (CA), Cook (CA), Issa (CA), Royce (CA), Walters (CA), Calvert (CA), Knight (CA), McCarthy (CA), Hunter (CA), LaMalfa (CA), McClintock (CA), Costa (CA), Denham (CA)
– Received in the Senate and referred to Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 7/18/17
– Passed/agreed to in House (230 to 190) 7/12/17
– Numerous actions, hearings and amendments have taken place since introduction on 1/3/17
Would allow the use of non-motorized bicycles, motorized or non-motorized wheelchairs, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, and game carts in wilderness. Wheelchairs are already allowed in Wilderness. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act reconciled itself with the Wilderness Act of 1964 by saying that people who use wheelchairs for everyday indoor mobility are allowed to use them in a wilderness area. A wheelchair or mobility device, even one that is battery-powered, so long as it is designed solely for indoor use by a mobility-impaired person, is already allowed anywhere foot travel is allowed, even in federally designated wilderness.
McClintock (CA), Hunter (CA), Westerman (AR), Pearce (NM)
– Referred to HNR Subcommittee on Federal Lands 3/15/17
Would create numerous new “categorical exclusions” (CE) from the public participation and environmental analysis requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The CEs would apply to both Forest Service and BLM lands. Would “expedite” the NEPA process for salvage logging and reforestation activities after large-scale wildfires or other natural disturbances. Would get rid of opportunities for judicial review in several ways by eliminating or constraining the ability of citizens to challenge federal forest management decisions in court. Would significantly weaken the interagency consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Includes convoluted language about roadless area management that could be interpreted to eliminate current regulatory protection of Inventoried Roadless Areas under the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule and the Idaho and Colorado roadless rules.
Would make several changes in the Secure Rural Schools Title II program that aim to shift the program’s emphasis and funding from environmental restoration to timber production. Would also shrink the size of RACs from 15 members to just 9 members, change the approval process from super-majority to simple majority rule, and limit RAC membership to local residents. Would add procedural hoops to road decommissioning, it would allow the logging of old-growth forests in Oregon and Washington, and would roll back the management of federally protected lands in northern California and western Oregon, including the Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument. Officials would manage the lands pursuant to the Oregon and California Lands Act of 1937. The nearly 87,000 acres of Cascade–Siskiyou forest would lose all protections imparted by President Clinton’s national monument designation in 2000, and President Obama’s subsequent expansion in 2017.
Westerman (AR), Nolan (MN), Tipton (CO), Labrador (ID), McClintock (CA), Peterson (MN), McMorris Rodgers (WA), Thompson (PA), Stewart (UT), Cheney (WY), LaMalfa (CA), Smith (MO), Gianforte (MT), Walden (OR), Valadao (CA)
– Passed the Natural Resources Committee (Yeas 23, Nays 12) on 6/27/17
– Referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and Committees on Natural Resources, Education and the Workforce, and Transportation and Infrastructure on 6/20/17
See explanation of bill under Senate version.
Cook (CA), O’Halleran (AZ)
– Referred to Subcommittee on Federal Lands 8/1/17
– Introduced and referred to House Committee on Natural Resources 7/17/17
Would require the Secretary of the Interior to develop a categorical exclusion for “covered vegetative management activities” that are carried out to establish/improve habitat for greater sage-grouse and mule deer. [Using a categorical exclusion means that the activities would be done without considering their combined impacts on the area’s water quality, wildlife, or recreational resources.]
“Covered” activities include: manual cutting and removal of juniper trees, piñon pine trees, other conifers; mechanical mastication, cutting, or mowing, mechanical piling and burning, chaining, broadcast burning, or yarding; use of a herbicide, pesticide, or biological control agent, subject to the condition that the use shall be in accordance with applicable legal requirements, Federal agency procedures, and land use plans; installation of new, or modification of existing, fencing or water sources intended to control use or improve wildlife habitat; and construction of temporary roads.
“Covered” activities that are excluded: any activity conducted in a wilderness area or wilderness study area; or any activity for the construction of a permanent road or permanent trail. While these exclusions are good, the bill would still allow DOI to engage in many types of destructive and extremely impactful activities without any kind of environmental review.
The likely purpose(s) behind this bill – to “create” more sage grouse habitat, thus providing the ability to increase oil and gas development and cattle grazing in existing sage grouse habitat. May also be an attempt to get the support of hunting enthusiasts with the inclusion of mule deer habitat.
Stewart (UT), Tipton (CO)
– Introduced and referred to House Committee on Natural Resources 7/28/17
Prohibits Federal agencies from impeding, prohibiting, or restricting border patrol activities on federal land located within 100 miles of the Southern Border. Provides $10 billion for the deployment and construction of tactical infrastructure and technology including wall, fencing, technology, air assets, and other barriers.
Bill could negatively impact wilderness, wilderness study areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, California Desert National Conservation Lands and other conservation areas.
McCaul (TX), Thornberry (TX), Sessions (TX), Bishop (UT), Shuster (PA), Smith (TX), Brady (TX), Conaway (TX), Hensarling (TX), Carter (TX), Granger (TX), Calvert (CA), King (NY), McSally (AZ), Katko (NY), Donovan (NY), Ratcliffe (TX), Higgins (LA), Estes (KS), Poe (TX), Olson (TX), Burgess (TX), Marchant (TX), Farenthold (TX), Johnson (TX), Arrington (TX), Culberson (TX), Weber (TX), Williams (TX), Babin (TX), Barton (TX), Flores (TX), Meadows (NC), Hunter (CA), Cook (CA), Bridenstine (OK), Palazzo (MS), Bergman (MI), Kelly (MS), Collins (NY), Poliquin (ME), Franks (AZ), Goodlatte (VA), Cramer (ND), Loudermilk (GA), Noem (SD), Kinzinger (IL), Bacon (NE), Brooks (IN), Rutherford (FL), Russell (OK), Bishop (MI), McClintock (CA), Abraham (LA), Garrett (VA), Harper (MS), LaMalfa (CA), Grothman (WI), Zeldin (NY), Renacci (OH), Witman (VA), Byrne (AL), Gallagher (WI), Fleischman (TN), Hice (GA), Chabot (OH), Lance (NJ), DesJarlais (TN), Pittenger (NC)
– Referred to Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security 8/29/17
– Referred to Subcommittee on Federal Lands 8/15/17
– Referred to six Subcommittees 7/31/17
– Introduced and referred to Committees on Homeland Security, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, Oversight and Government Reform 7/28/17
Would amend the Wilderness Act to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to do the following within a wilderness area: gain access to structures; use motor vehicles and aircraft; deploy temporary infrastructure in “emergency situations” (without defining “emergency”); construct and maintain roads and fences with approval of DOI.
Bill says that these activities “shall be carried out in a manner that, to the greatest extent possible, protects the wilderness character of the area” which is vague and subjective and completely unenforceable, thus leaving wilderness at the mercy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
– Referred to Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security 8/29/17
– Referred to Subcommittee on Federal Lands 8/15/17
– Introduced and referred to Committees on Natural Resources and Homeland Security 7/28/17
Would give the provision of opportunities for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and fish and wildlife management, top priority in Wilderness, rather than protection of wilderness characteristics.
Would allow virtually any activity that would “facilitate, enhance, or both … wildlife conservation programs and projects or provide fish and wildlife dependent recreation opportunities” in Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, lands designated as wilderness or administratively classified as wilderness eligible or suitable and primitive or semi-primitive areas and National Monuments.
Would allow the construction of “temporary” roads to facilitate recreational uses and conceivably would allow the construction of other structures within Wilderness areas.
Would remove Wilderness Act prohibitions for agency managers against motor vehicle use for any management activities related to fishing, hunting, or recreational shooting, or for any wildlife conservation activities.
Would exempt all of the above actions from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. All of the above can be found in Section 403 of Title IV.
Duncan (SC), Carter (TX), Wittman (VA), Scott (GA), Sessions (TX), Green (TX)
– Introduced and referred to the following Committees: Natural Resources, Agriculture, Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means 9/1/17
Limits the Antiquities Act to “Object or objects of antiquity” instead of “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” These are defined narrowly to include relics, artifacts, skeletal remains, fossils (but not fossil fuels), and buildings constructed before date of enactment. Does not include geographic features, or natural objects (except for human or animal skeletal remains).
Deletes “smallest area compatible” language and creates a bunch of new size-based classifications for monuments and rules for each:
a. Under 640 acres: no restrictions
b. Between 640 and 5,000 acres: All exterior boundaries of the monument must be at least 50 miles from the closest exterior boundary of another national monument. Interior or Agriculture Secretary must “review under NEPA” (maybe could use a CatEx?)
c. Between 5,000 and 10,000 acres: All exterior boundaries of the monument must be at least 50 miles from the closest exterior boundary of another national monument. Interior or Agriculture Secretary must prepare an EA or EIS under NEPA.
d. Between 10,000 and 85,000 acres: All exterior boundaries of the monument must be at least 50 miles from the closest exterior boundary of another national monument. Must be approved by the elected governing body of each county, the state legislature, and the Governor of each state where the monument is located. (Oddly, there’s no NEPA requirement here).
e. Over 85,000 acres: not permitted
Creates an emergency exception where “designation is made to prevent imminent and irreparable harm to the object or objects of antiquity to be protected by the designation” that is effective for one year, which cannot be repeated, and which cannot restrict any uses allowed on the land before designated.
Would allow the President to reduce the size of any national monument by 85,000 acres or less if reduction “has been reviewed under NEPA” and if reduction has been approved by the elected governing body of each county, the state legislature, and the Governor of each state where the monument is located.
No national monuments permitted that would place non-federal property within the external boundaries of the monument without express written consent of the property owner.
“Land” in monuments does not include submerged land or water (so presumably no marine monuments).
No federally reserved water rights for monuments.
Bishop (UT), Lamborn (CO), McClintock (CA), LaMalfa (CA), Gosar (AZ), Westerman (AR)
– Passed Committee of Natural Resources 10/11/17
– Introduced 10/6/17
Would prohibit actions that impede border security on certain Federal land. The Secretary of Agriculture or Secretary of Interior would be prohibited from impeding, prohibiting or restricting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) access to Federal land within the 100-mile zone if they are executing search and rescue operations or preventing unlawful entries into the US. This includes entries by terrorists, unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband. Would give Border patrol “immediate access” to federal land within the 100-mile zone for use of vehicles to patrol/apprehend “illegal entrants” and to rescue people; and for the construction, installation, operation and maintenance of tactile infrastructure (fence, wall, checkpoints, etc.) and border technology (any Federal equipment including fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, four-wheel drive vehicles, sedans, night vision goggles, night vision scopes, and sensor units use, for the purpose of detection, interdiction, and reduction of illegal immigration into the United States).
Exempts CBP from a myriad of laws including many environmental and wildlife acts (including NEPA, ESA, Wilderness Act, Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the Antiquities Act, etc.) but they are not allowed to restrict legal uses of the land (hunting, grazing, mining, recreation, airstrips, etc.)
Does not apply to state or private land. Does not affect tribal agreements.
Cornyn (TX), Inhofe (OK), Scott (SC), Heller (NV), Tillis (NC), Johnson (WI), Barrasso (WY), Wicker (MS)
– Read the second time and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders (Calendar No. 208) 9/5/17
– Introduced, read the first time, and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time 8/3/17
Would allow any state, county, political subdivision or agency of a state, company, or other person that asserts public acceptance of a right-of-way granted for the construction of highways over public lands to file a claim (or notice of intent to file suit) within the 25-year period beginning on the date of enactment of the bill. Would allow any state, county, political subdivision or agency of a state, company, or other person that asserts public acceptance of a right-of-way granted for the construction of highways over public lands to file a claim (or notice of intent to file suit) within the 25-year period beginning on the date of enactment of the bill.
Overwrites longstanding state and federal case law concerning the nature, validity, and scope of RS 2477 rights-of-way, allowing claimants to gain title to untold thousands of rights-of-way across public lands regardless of their validity under RS 2477.
RS 2477 was enacted in 1866 to grant rights-of-way across federal lands to prospectors and homesteaders. Congress repealed RS 2477 in 1976 when it passed FLPMA, but provided that valid existing rights established prior to FLPMA’s enactment would be recognized if the terms of the grant were met.
Opponents of FLPMA began using RS 2477—just one of a slew of right-of-way grants—to claim faded two-tracks, cow paths, and wash bottoms as “highways” that, if developed, could disqualify lands from wilderness eligibility and other protections.
The vast majority of claims—unimproved dirt roads and trails—do not serve any public purpose. S. 468 seeks to validate these spurious claims and many thousands more across the West by drastically lowering evidentiary burdens and fundamentally redefining the law surrounding RS 2477. The true purpose of the bill is to rubberstamp RS 2477 claims and, in so doing, undermine the protections of the American West’s most pristine public lands.
Specifically allows claims in wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and lands with wilderness characteristics.
Flake (AZ), Hatch (UT), Heller (NV), McCain (AZ)
– Hearing held by Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining 7/26/17
– Introduced and referred to Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 2/28/17
Executive Orders & Other Threats
The administration and Congress have been increasingly interested in rescinding recent National Monument designations, specifically those of Bears Ears (UT), Katahdin Woods and Waters (ME), and Cascade-Siskiyou (OR/CA) – the latter of which CalWild helped expand in President Obama’s final week in office. California’s most recent Monuments, including Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, San Gabriel Mountains, Cascade-Siskiyou, and Berryessa-Snow Mountain, are vulnerable to any revocation or reduction attempts. Additionally, Carrizo Plain and Giant Sequoia also face review.
No President has ever revoked a National Monument before, and legal experts are confident that even an attempt is illegal if not foolhardy, time-consuming, and most certainly litigious and a drain of public resources.
– 6/26/17: Thanks to our D.C. ears and eyes, we were alerted to this with enough time to coordinate in a big way with our allies across California and the country, sending a loud message to D.C. that the public does not support this review.
– May-July 2017: Events held throughout California in support of our 7 Monuments under threat while CalWild and its partners spread our action alerts generating comments
– 6/12/17: Secretary Zinke recommended that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be shrunk but did not quantify the new proposed size. This is an alarming beginning to the recommendation process and could set a precedent for further recommendations.
– 6/10/17: Pubic comment process closes
– 6/11/17: During the public comment process, CalWild supporters submitted 1,621 comments to the DOI amongst the 2.7 million comments received in total (98% of the those were in support of maintaining or expanding National Monuments across the country)
– 6/12/17: Secretary Zinke announces that the DOI will not seek changes to the Hanford Reach and Craters of the Moon monuments in Washington and Idaho, underscoring a likely attempt to change the remaining 25 monuments under review in the coming weeks. Announced a mere 2 days after the comments session was closed – hardly enough time to read a fraction of that 2.7 million comments – this move reveals just how arbitrary the decision-making is at the current DOI.
– 8/24/17: Expected reommendations from Secretary Zinke
Rep. Rob Bishop [R-UT] is trying to use the House budgetary process to earmark $50 million dollars (not coincidentally, the annual budget of the National Conservation Lands) to make easier the transfer of public lands and wilderness areas to the states, a long-lived fantasy of extremist Republicans that seems downright plausible under President Trump and the 115th Congress.
Despite our actions, Conservatives used the Congressional Review Act to overturn a progressive new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy dubbed “Planning 2.0,” which would have increased public input for land management decisions for that federal department.
Read more about Planning 2.0 here.
On its first day in session, the 115th Congress quietly passed a rules package that “changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities” – The Washington Post
This internal move anticipates future attempts to dismantle federal public lands designations, which have been proven to help generate more jobs and increase economic health in counties across the country.