Federal Lands Subcommittee Legislative Hearing
Congressman McClintock is the Chairman of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on May 12, 2016. Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement:
Chairman’s Opening Statement
Congressman Tom McClintock
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3565, H.R. 3839, H.R. 4233, and H.R. 5132
Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to review four Bureau of Land Management (BLM) bills that have been referred to this subcommittee.
All of these bills should be measured against our three objectives for federal lands management: to restore public access to the public lands, to restore sound management practices to the public lands and to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to the communities directly impacted by the public lands.
H.R. 3565, authored by Congresswoman Lois Capps, would add over 5,800 acres to the California Coastal National Monument, placing additional restrictions on public access, land management and local prerogatives. I look forward to hearing how this bill meets any of the subcommittee’s objectives.
H.R. 3839, offered by Congresswoman Kristi Noem, permanently transfers jurisdictional authority of 200 acres of federal land outside Sturgis, South Dakota from the BLM to the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place of many notable American veterans including Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Charles Windolph.
The existing cemetery is running out of room, and transferring adjacent BLM land to its grounds will provide needed expansion to honor the veterans of this and future generations.
H.R. 4233, offered by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, lifts the congressional reservation of about 40 rocks and islets off the coast of Orange County, California that had been intended for lighthouses that were never built and are no longer needed.
The bill does not expand the federal estate; rather, it simply removes the Congressional reservations to expand the options available to the BLM for management of this property. The bill also preserves the current economic and recreational uses and activities of the area, such as fishing, to ensure that BLM cannot inhibit those activities on any lands incorporated into the National Monument.
H.R. 5132, offered by Representative Greg Walden, revises the boundary, and reduces the size, of the Whychus-Deschutes Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in order to allow for sensible fire prevention activities to occur in the area. The WSA, which is managed by BLM, is directly adjacent to Crooked River Ranch, an unincorporated community in central Oregon with a population of about 5,500 residents.
The local government has determined that the WSA lands are in the highest risk category for exposure to devastating wildfire due to overstocked juniper stands. To make matters worse, the community is located on a peninsula at the convergence of the Crooked and Deschutes river canyons and has only one entrance and exit, drastically increasing the risk to public safety from a catastrophic wildfire.
And here’s a song we’ve heard before: despite the high fire risk, BLM is not performing adequate fire prevention activities, particularly mechanical treatments, in the area because it is managed as a WSA. In addition, the location of the WSA hampers firefighting tactics, leaving local firefighters with no maneuvering room to protect life and property in the event of catastrophic wildfire.
This bill simply revises the boundary of the WSA to provide a protective buffer next to the community, allows it to work with BLM to prevent fires and ensures that local firefighters can protect the community.
Without doing so, juniper stands and other hazardous fuels will continue to build up in the WSA, putting at risk lives and hundreds of homes. This is just the latest in a litany of occurrences of federal land designations, including WSAs, which forbid proper forestry management practices and unnecessarily increase the likelihood of devastating wildfires across the West.
I look forward to hearing from the members of Congress who have joined us to testify on their legislation, as well as our other witnesses. I now recognize the ranking member for her statement.