Federal Lands Subcommittee Oversight Field Hearing: “Ensuring Local Input, Legal Consistency and Multiple-Use Resource Management in St. George Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Planning"
Congressman McClintock is the Chairman of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The subcommittee held an oversight field hearing in St. George, Utah, on January 22, 2016 titled “Ensuring Local Input, Legal Consistency and Multiple-Use Resource Management in St. George Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Planning.” Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement at the hearing:
Opening Statement of Chairman Tom McClintock
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Oversight Field Hearing titled “Ensuring Local Input, Legal Consistency and Multiple-Use Resource Management in St. George BLM Planning”
January 22, 2016
Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands has come to St. George, Utah to hold an oversight hearing on the Bureau of Land Management’s draft Resource Management Plans pursuant to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.
We are here because Congress is hearing a crescendo of complaints about BLM tactics and policies across the country and St. George seems to be a poster child of BLM Bad Behavior. We are here to get to the bottom of it.
During this Congressional session, the Federal Lands Subcommittee has sought to reinstate three fundamental principles for our stewardship of the federal lands:
• First, to restore the public’s right to use and enjoy the public’s lands. Preserving our lands for future generations does NOT mean closing them to this generation.
• Second, to restore principles of sound management to the public lands. That was Gifford Pinchot maxim for the Forest Service: To manage the lands “for the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.”
• Third, to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to those communities that are impacted by federal land ownership. That means that we don’t run roughshod over the wishes of local communities.
We are concerned that a corporate culture has taken root within the BLM that is antithetical to these principles.
In 2009, Congress adopted and the President signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that reflected years of good faith discussions and concessions made by the elected representatives of the communities directly impacted by these policies. For many years, members of this community – from grazers to recreationists to environmentalists – all worked together to craft a bill that would shape the future management of federal lands in this county. Local officials reluctantly agreed to designate over one hundred thousand acres of new wilderness, in exchange for the promise of multiple-use activities on the remaining federal lands which are the lifeblood of this community. As a result, the bill was hailed as a unique compromise among extremely disparate parties and a successful model for future collaborative agreements.
It then fell to BLM to write regulatory plans in good faith to carry out this unique compromise. Instead, we are informed that the local communities who trusted this process now believe the BLM was bargaining in bad faith and that its current proposal makes a mockery of the promises – both implicit and explicit – in that law.
The overwhelming consensus of these local representatives today is that what was painstakingly agreed to in the legislation that they negotiated, and Congress ratified, has since been distorted by unelected BLM bureaucrats to fit a narrow ideological agenda.
What we are hearing – loud and clear – is that these draft plans would dramatically restrict the public’s right to the full range of uses they were promised, including a local transportation corridor, motorized recreation, grazing and other activities. We are also hearing that the draft plans are inconsistent with the law that includes several provisions specific to the future of federal land management in this county. Finally, the subcommittee is very concerned with reports that BLM bureaucrats have deliberately ignored these concerns when local governments and concerned citizens have repeatedly raised them.
This subcommittee doesn’t normally hold hearings on individual land use plans. But it appears that the BLM, which administers nearly half of the land area of Washington County, has ignored the will of Congress and thumbed its nose at the people whose taxes support this government and whose livelihoods and quality of life are now directly threatened by it.
When one of Darth Vader’s victims protests, “But that’s not our agreement,” Darth Vader sneers, “I am altering our agreement. Pray that I do not alter it further.”
If bad faith and empty promises become the coin of the federal realm, it is highly unlikely anyone will enter into land use negotiations with it again or trust it in the future.
Instead, St. George will be used as a cautionary tale that Ronald Reagan was right when he warned, “If you get in bed with the federal government, you had better be prepared for something other than a good night’s sleep.”
We are here because Congress will not allow that to become the story of St. George and the BLM. And I would remind the BLM that the last time St. George fought a dragon, St. George won.
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