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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Amendment to Require County Approval of Wilderness Designations to HR 2546

February 12, 2020
Speeches
Amendment to Require County Approval of Wilderness Designations to HR 2546
Committee of the Whole House
February 12, 2020
 
 
Mr. Chairman:
 
The federal government owns just 7/10ths of one percent of the State of New York.  It owns just 1.1 percent of the State of Illinois.  It owns just 1.8 percent of the State of Texas.  The federal government owns only one fourth of Washington, D.C.
 
But then go farther west and you will see the problem.  The Federal Government owns and controls 62 percent of the state of Alaska, 2/3 of Utah and 4/5 of the state of Nevada.  It owns nearly half of my home state of California.  In one county in my district – Alpine County – the federal government owns 96 percent of the land.  
 
People from the eastern half of the United States have no idea what that means.  That’s all land that’s OFF the local tax rolls.  That’s all land that carries increasingly severe restrictions on public use and access, which means it’s generating very little economic activity to these regions.  And often, federal ownership means that federal land use policies are in direct contravention to the wishes of the local communities that are entangled with it.
 
When Republicans held the majority, one of our federal land objectives was to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to those communities directly impacted by the federal lands.  
 
The bill before us does exactly the opposite.  This bill adds 1.5 million acres of federal land to wilderness restrictions – meaning you can’t even bring a stroller on these lands.  
 
This land grab is strongly opposed by the local communities it would directly affect.  The Mesa County Commission and Garfield County, Colorado oppose this bill because of concerns it will further restrict public access and increase the risk of fire.  The congressmen representing these areas oppose this legislation.  
 
Eighty percent of Del Norte County, California is already owned by state and federal governments and their Board of Supervisors is protesting the further restriction of public access to these lands – noting that these lands don’t even meet wilderness criteria.  Trinity County has also formally opposed this bill.  Yet we are plowing ahead anyway. 
 
The Monrovia City Council protests the enormous economic burdens this bill would place on their city.  So too, the Grays Harbor County Commission and the city councils of Aberdeen and Cosmopolis in Washington State beg us not to impose these restrictions on their communities.  I could go on.
 
Representing the Sierra Nevada of California, I can tell you that there are no more fierce or knowledgeable guardians of our forests than the people who live among them.  This amendment restores the good neighbor policy that Republicans practiced for many years.   It simply provides that wilderness restrictions cannot be imposed until the county in which the land is located approves of them.  
 
I would ask that our Democratic colleagues show a little humility and a little mercy in exercising their power by listening to the people most affected by their decisions and adopt this amendment.
 
Gifford Pinchot, the father of the U.S. Forest Service propounded maxims for good behavior.  He said: 
 
A public official is there to serve the public and not run them.
Public support of acts affecting public rights is absolutely required.
It is more trouble to consult the public than to ignore them, but that is what you are hired for.
Find out in advance what the public will stand for.  If it is right and they won’t stand for it, postpone action and educate them.
Get rid of an attitude of personal arrogance or pride of attainment or superior knowledge.
Don’t try any sly, or foxy politics.  A forester is not a politician.
 
This bill turns these maxims upside down.  It says to local residents: we know what’s best for you and your communities; your opinions are unimportant to us, your wishes irrelevant and your voices unheard.  We’re in charge and we’ll damn well do as we please.
 
I ask my Democratic colleagues to take a step back and consider how you would react to a government that takes such an attitude as that.
 
This amendment simply asks the people and trusts the people.  If we are still a government of, by and for the people, that’s the least we can do.