Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Federal Lands Subcommittee Legislative Hearing on H.R. 5780, Utah Public Lands Initiative Act

September 14, 2016

Congressman McClintock is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.  The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on September 14, 2016.  Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement:

Opening Statement of Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04)
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands

Legislative Hearing on H.R. 5780, Utah Public Lands Initiative Act

September 14, 2016

Good morning. Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to hear testimony on H.R. 5780, the Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, brought to us by the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Mr. Rob Bishop. 

This subcommittee measures bills according to three over-arching 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.

Of all the bills we have seen during this Congress, I believe no one has tried harder to adhere to these principles than Chairman Bishop in the bill before us today, the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). 

Although the Federal Government owns only 7/10ths of one percent of New York, 1.1 percent of Illinois, 1.6 percent of Massachusetts and 1.8 percent of Texas, it owns nearly half of California, 4/5 of Nevada and 2/3 of Congressman Bishop’s home state of Utah.

This creates enormous problems and economic distress on the communities impacted by federal land ownership, and the bill before us is the result of many years of work, collaboration and compromise by Chairman Bishop that has produced a locally-driven solution to some of Utah’s most daunting land management issues. 

His bill promises to expand public recreational access, protect grazing, and ensure the continued use of off-highway vehicles. The PLI includes protections against federal overreach and ensures that the State of Utah can have control over its own economic and energy future. 

This bill is a give and take for all who were involved, but ultimately ensures certainty and resolution to the State of Utah.     

To be clear, I would not support the compromises in this bill if they were stand-alone legislation.  It designates millions of acres for wilderness that makes scientific land management nearly impossible.  It confers 360 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designations that have proven disastrous at Yosemite, where the Merced River designation is now being used to remove long-standing visitor amenities including bicycle and horse rentals, historic stone bridges and lodging.

But these concessions were made in order to provide certainty and stability for other lands that are exchanged and consolidated for beneficial use by the public, and inclusion of local and tribal governments in many land management decisions from which they were previously excluded. 

Most importantly, this bill pre-empts arbitrary and capricious designations threatened in the final throes of the Obama administration.  Mr. Obama’s threatened monument designations are focused on appeasing out-of-state interests at the expense of local people struggling to have good paying jobs and keep their public schools open after monuments engulf their communities. In contrast, this bill seeks to create a national monument that the people of Utah and its tribes actually support.

This President has relied on the Antiquities Act – originally written in 1906 to provide temporary protection of archeological sites from looting -- to lock up 548 million acres of land and water lands on whim.  That’s an area larger than the states of California, Texas, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico combined. This abuse of power means the public is largely forbidden from enjoying traditional recreational pursuits on the public lands, including snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, shooting, off-highway vehicle use.  
In my own district, these same special interests are trying to convert the Sierra National Forest into a 1.3 million-acre Sierra National Monument, obliterating the last remaining timber jobs in our communities and making the management of our lands impossible at a time of severe drought and beetle infestation.  If successful, I would suggest naming it the “Burnt Forest National Monument,” where school children can come to see what leftist environmentalism has done to the environment. 

I’m not sure to whom President Obama thinks he is accountable, but here in Congress we believe it’s our constituents.  Ultimately, it is up to our elected officials, such as Chairman Bishop and Commissioner Rebecca Benally, who is here today, to represent their local residents and be held accountable for their land use choices. 

I hope the administration officials here today pay close attention to the loud and resounding opposition to a unilateral monument designation and let local elected officials decide the fate of lands in Utah. 

With that, I look forward to hearing testimony from today’s witnesses and I now recognize the Ranking Member for her opening statement. 

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