Continuous update on the 115TH Congress’
Legislative Assault on Democracy and Public Lands
We are living in a time of unprecedented attacks on both public lands and waters, and the agencies that protect them. Without action on the part of all Americans, we stand to lose much of the conservation legacy that has been achieved over the forty-seven years since SEACC was created, not just in Southeast Alaska, but everywhere. And it is no coincidence that these bills are all coming out one after another – the deluge of new legislation is designed to make it more difficult to meaningfully respond to or organize around any one proposed law.
We know how overwhelming it can be to process and keep up with the assault by the 115th Congress on our public lands and waters. Below you can find ongoing updates on proposed legislation that would impact our environment in Southeast so that you, our members, can stay informed and that we can work together to take action. Please contact our Environmental Policy Analyst Sally Schlichting ([email protected]) anytime to learn more about being a part of SEACC’s efforts to stop the public land grab, and defend public lands in Southeast Alaska. And please let us know about other resources you have found useful, for example, those from our partners, so that we can share them here as well.
The links below will take you to the Congress.gov site that hosts the bills themselves – the “Tracker” in the Bill Overview (look for the box with a dark red title on it) provides the bill status. You can also see what’s happened on the bill most recently by clicking on the ‘Actions’ tab, although we’ll be working to update this page with those changes at least weekly, as well. ‘H.R.’ indicates a bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives – ‘S.’ indicates a bill introduced in the Senate.
Public Land Land-Giveaway Bills
H.R. 232 – State National Forest Management Act of 2017 - This bill, sponsored by Alaska Congressman Don Young, would move 2 million acres of National Forest lands to state forest in all states, including Alaska. This could mean that some states could see all of their National Forests transferred to poorly funded and staffed state forests. For more info please see our most recent Action Alert or read our blog.
H.R. 229 – Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act – The bill introduced by Congressman Young in 2017 is identical to H.R 2386, which he introduced last session. This bill amends the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to permit the Native residents of Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee, and Wrangell to organize as urban corporations and to select up to 23,040 acres of settlement land from anywhere on the Tongass, including previously designated National Monuments, Wilderness, and Legislated Land Use Designation II Management Areas. These urban corporations may also establish a settlement trust under state law to promote the health, education, and welfare of the trust beneficiaries, and preserve the Native heritage and culture of their communities.
H.R. 513 and S. 131 - Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange Act of 2017 – Congress enacted S.131 into law by incorporating it into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R.244) on May 4, 2017. Alaska’s Congressman Young and Senator Lisa Murkowski sponsored these identical bills to fast-track an exchange of Alaska Mental Health Trust lands with substantial public safety concerns and high community use values for productive timberlands on the Tongass National Forest. More...
H. Res. 5 - The rules package - adopted by Republicans in the first few days of the 115th Congress, changed current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules to allow the give-away of federal public lands without accounting for the land’s value to the US government, and without requiring budget cuts to replace the value lost. This will make it easier to transfer lands from federal to state control, and is one of the more subtle and egregious changes in legislation as it allows future proposed legislation (e.g. the other bills in this list) to be approved without requiring the government to adequately account or compensate for the lost revenue that would be generated by what were previously public lands.
H.R. 211 – Chugach Region Lands Study Act - Introduced by Congressman Young in early January 2017, the bill directs the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to identify at least 500,000 acres of economically viable federal land “in or outside the State of Alaska” for exchange with the Chugach Alaska Corporation for any of its lands identified as available for selection. More...
H.R. 230 – Sale Act - also known as the “Shee Atika Land Entitlement Act” - permits Shee Atika Corporation to receive payment in cash or bid credits for acquiring federal surplus property from federal agencies in exchange for the roughly 23,000 acres of land it clearcut on Admiralty Island. Twenty-five years ago, Congress encouraged the Forest Service to engage in negotiations aimed at completion of a voluntary exchange agreement between Shee Atika, Inc. More...
H.R. 865 Emergency Forest Restoration Act – This bill would make it easier for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to avoid public oversight of forest management activities by declaring an emergency due to damage by fire or insect. This act excludes timber sales from public review, despite their inclusion previously being required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While there is limited insect or fire damage on the Tongass National Forest, this bill may be used extensively to “get out the cut” in the Lower 48.
H.J.R. 97 - Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Agriculture relating to "Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment" - Don Young proposed this joint resolution to nullify the Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Plan Amendment for the Tongass National Forest, a plan approved by the Forest Service in December 2016. SEACC and other conservation-focused organizations approved of the plan which will transition logging in Southeast from old-growth to new-growth logging. Although SEACC and many others don't think the plan halted old-growth clear-cut logging on the Tongass fast enough, we knew it was it critical to finalize the plan before the Trump Administration began. Despite its imperfections, the plan increases the amount of key salmon and wildlife habitat off-limits to logging and begins a limited transition away from old growth logging. To date, Young's bill has gotten little to no traction.
CRAFTING A DIRTY WATER ACT AND DISMANTLING THE E.P.A.
Trumps 2018 Budget – The White House proposed slashing a quarter of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, targeting climate change, and programs to prevent air and water pollution. Trump’s budget also targets the $498 million U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides grants and low-interest loans to rural communities for water and sewer system repairs, for elimination. Trump’s budget also “[z]eros out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant.” Finally, twenty-three Senators, including both from Alaska, opposed Trumps drastic $1.3 billion dollar cut to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2018 budget.
S. 340 - Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2017 - May 24, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 953, the "Poison Our Waters Act," by a vote of 256-165, with Alaska 's Congressman Don Young vote "aye." Always a fan of the corporate giveaway, Young put the interests of corporations like Monsanto over the interests of Alaskans in protecting customary and traditional use areas and resources, like salmon streams and other locations used for gathering traditional foods and other resources. The Poison Our Waters Act removes vital protection for our health and environment by eliminating the Clean Water Act's requirement that EPA and states regulate the discharge of aerially sprayed pesticides that fall into lakes, streams, ponds and other waters of the United States as pollutants.
Now the battle heads to the U.S. Senate, where H.R 953's companion bill, the so-called "Sensible Environmental Protection Act" (S.340) has been introduced and will soon come before Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan and the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (SEPW). This bill is neither sensible nor protective of the environment. Call or write Senator Sullivan and ask him to stand up for Alaska's clean water, and the fish, wildlife, and cultures it supports, by opposing S.340.
H.J. Res. 38 - Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule – proposed by Rep Bill Johnson and signed into law on February 16th, eliminates the Stream Protection Rule which has safeguarded streams and rivers against pollution from mining. This endangers rivers like the Chuitna here in Alaska by removing protections from possible and existing mining operations. Alaska’s entire delegation voted in favor of this resolution. More...
H.Res.152 and S.Res.12 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that clean water is a national priority, and that the June 29, 2015, Waters of the United States Rule should be withdrawn or vacated – On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review, rescind, or revise the rule adopted in 2015 defining the scope of “waters of the United States” for purposes of regulating the discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act into navigable waters. On March 6, 2017, both agencies announced their intention to review and rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule. Instead of reducing regulatory uncertainty, Trump’s order and the agency’s follow-up action will accentuate regulatory uncertainty and impede the government’s fulfillment of responsibility under the Clean Water Act “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
H.R. 694 - Stop EPA Overregulation of Rural Americans Act – proposed by Rep David Rouzer of North Carolina, would eliminate the EPA’s emissions standards for new wood stoves.
H.R. 637: Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017 - proposed by Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama, aims to roll back regulations dealing with greenhouse gas emissions such as the EPA’s rule classifying greenhouse gasses as pollutants.
H.R. 861 - To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency – proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, aims to shut down the EPA and dismantle the agency in charge of implementing the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.
ASSAULTS ON DEMOCRACY, WILDLIFE & THE PUBLIC GOOD
H.R. 2936 - Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 - Proposed by Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, and referred to the Committee on Agriculture as well as Committees such as the Committee on Natural Resources of which Alaska's Senator Lisa Murkowski is the chair. This bill undermines many of our central environmental protections such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and the Roadless Rule on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and on Tribal lands.
The bill attacks informed public participation under NEPA to boost logging on public lands. As citizens, we have the right to protect our homes and have a say in what happens on our public lands. By waiving NEPA requirements, Rep. Westerman is increasing the amount of land that can be clearcut without substantive environmental review or public engagement. SEACC joined 38 other groups in signing onto a letter opposing this bill.
S. 33 – Improved National Monument Designation Process Act – this bill, sponsored by Alaska Senator Murkowski, would curtail the President’s authority to use the Antiquities Act to create National Monuments. This bill requires Congressional approval and would likely result in resource extraction interests preventing public treasures like the Admiralty Island National Monument from being protected in the future.
H.R. 717 – Listing Reform Act – this attempt to dismantle a bill that has saved several species from extinction would require consideration of economic costs, not science when making listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act. The House NAtural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 717 in July 2017.
H.J. Resolution 69 – Non-Subsistence Take on National Wildlife Refuges (see link for full title) – Alaska Congressman Don Young introduced this bill, which was signed into law on April 4th, to quash sensible wildlife management in National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska in favor of an archaic “predators are bad” mandate in a misguided attempt to increase game populations. This bill would allow unsportsmanlike practices such as bear baiting and hunting of cubs in dens to continue unregulated in Alaska’s Wildlife Refuges.
S.J.Res.18 - Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan submitted this resolution to disapprove the rule adopted August 5, 2016 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The rule doesn’t restrict the taking of fish and wildlife for subsistence uses within Alaska Refuges, but prohibits predator control practices including bear baiting, same-day airborne take of bears, and snaring of wolves and pups during denning season.
H.R. 424 – Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017 – The House Natural Resources committee has move this bill to a committee hearing. This bill attempts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming off the endangered species list in 2011 and 2012, saying these populations had recovered sufficiently to allow resumed hunting under state management plans, failed to pass muster in federal court. This bill directs the agency to reissue the faulty decisions and exempts them from judicial review.
S. 49 – Alaska Oil and Gas Production Act – introduced by Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan, this bill directs the Secretary of Interior to ignore existing rules and regulations that promote sustainable resource management in order to satisfy Big Oil’s desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
H.R. 222 – To amend the National Marine Sanctuaries Act - to prescribe and additional requirement for the designation of marine sanctuaries off the coast of Alaska, and for other purposes - This bill amends the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to prohibit the Department of Commerce from designating as a national marine sanctuary an area of the marine environment off the coast of Alaska seaward of the high tide line unless Congress enacts a bill requiring the Department to do so and specifies the boundaries of the designated area.
H.R. 223 – To prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce (see link for full name) - This bill prohibits the Departments of Interior and Commerce from authorizing in any manner commercial finfish aquaculture operations within the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, unless Congress passes a law authorizing such action.
S.33 - Improved National Monument Designation Process Act – This bill would require a President, before designating a national monument on public land or marine waters within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, to obtain congressional approval and approval from the state legislature of the state where the monument is located.
S.101 – King Cove Road Land Exchange Act - Senators Murkowski and Sullivan cosponsored a bill to designate a road corridor for a single lane gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge for medical evacuations from King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay. After a thorough public environmental review, former Secretary Jewell rejected a land exchange proposed for the corridor because of potential adverse effects on eelgrass habitat important to certain waterfowl species.
S.215 – A bill to authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (see link for full name)- Both of Alaska’s Senators introduced a bill directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), upon request of the City of Saxman, Alaska, to issue a stay of the statutory deadline by which the city must commence construction on the Mahoney Lake Hydroelectric Project located in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska. If requested by the City of Saxman, FERC must also reinstate the construction license and make it effective as of the date the stay is lifted.
S.267 – A bill to provide for the correction of a survey of certain land in the State of Alaska - Both of Alaska’s Senators introduced a bill that directs the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to modify the boundary of the Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2911) to convey Federal land described as “Lost Creek” and convey to the State of Alaska.
H.J.Res.44 – Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior relating to Bureau of Land Management (see link for full name) - Signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2017, this is the latest effort by the 115th Congress to scuttle rules adopted during the Obama Administration, by legislative fiat, the Senate repealed a new rule intended to modernize federal land management on BLM lands. . Both Alaska Senators voted in favor of the repeal although BLM manages more lands in Alaska than any other state. Instead of assuring that Alaskans are guaranteed public access, transparency, and sunshine in planning on federal public lands, Alaska Senators concluded they knew best and stuck agency planning processes back in the 20th Century. More...
115TH CONGRESS’ TACTICS TO CIRCUMVENT PUBLIC SCRUTINY
This Congress is avoiding public comment on their legislative giveaways by using a relatively obscure rule-making process called joint resolutions. A joint resolution is often used in the same manner as a bill. Once a joint resolution passes both the House and Senate in identical form and is signed by the President, it becomes law. Joint resolutions are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution.
In an obvious double standard, the majority in the 115th Congress are short-circuiting their own rules to pass new laws that favor shortsighted corporate interests. Several new bills demand the use of cost-benefit accounting in implementing regulations. Meanwhile, the 115th Congress has stripped the Congressional Budget Office of its ability to assess the real costs of the proposed legislation.
Additional Environmental Bills
H.R. 195 – Expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to conservative environmental stewardship - Where is Don Young!? On 13 March 2017, seventeen Republican Congressman from every corner of America, from New York to Florida and from Nevada and Utah to Washington State, cosponsored a resolution expressing the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to “conservative environmental stewardship.” The resolution acknowledges that “it is a conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment . . . and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground[.]” The resolution commits “to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.” Can you hear Teddy Roosevelt’s voice? On 31 August 1910, in Osawatomie, Kansas, President Teddy Roosevelt reminded America that human welfare was more important than property rights: “The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”