Federal Lands Subcomittee Hearing - Discussion Draft of the “Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act” (LOCAL Management Act)
Congressman McClintock is the chairman of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The subcommittee held a hearing on April 28th to hear testimony on the LOCAL Management Act (Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act). Toulumne County Supervisor Sherri Brennan testified at the hearing. Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement:
Chairman’s Opening Statement
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
House Natural Resources Committee
April 28th, 2016
Today the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to consider draft legislation to require federal land use agencies to more closely consult and cooperate with local governments that are directly affected by their decisions.
The three overarching objectives of this subcommittee bear repeating: to restore public access to the public lands; to restore proper management to the public lands and to restore the federal government as a good neighbor to the communities directly affected by the public lands.
Gifford Pinchot, the Father of the U.S. Forest Service, gave a series of lectures at the Yale School of Forestry, in which he propounded maxims for the “Behavior of Foresters in Public Office.”
• “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.”
The U.S. Forest Service has strayed so far from these founding principles that reading them today in any mountain community in the Sierra Nevada is guaranteed to generate derisive laughter.
The draft legislation we consider today would begin to restore what was once a close working relationship between local communities and federal land managers. Pinchot understood something that his recent successors have forgotten: that although these lands are owned by the federal government, the effects of poor management are disproportionately felt by those living on the boundaries of a National Forest or a National Park.
The most common complaint I hear from locally elected officials in my district is that they are rarely consulted, rarely respected and often bypassed by federal land managers in the decisions that directly affect their communities and their local economies.
The situation was summed up quite well by Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly a few years ago, protesting the Forest Service’s unilateral decision to place severe restrictions on vehicle access to the Plumas National Forest. He said “The restriction applies to such activities as: collecting firewood, retrieving game, loading or unloading horses or other livestock, and camping…The National Forests are part of the local fabric. The roads within the National Forests are used by thousands of residents and visitors for transportation and recreation. These activities generate revenue for our rural communities, which are critical for their survival.”
Many of my colleagues can offer similar anecdotes about the contentious and unproductive relationship between the federal government and local communities regarding land management decisions.
Road closures; interfering with long-established community events; expelling long-standing grazing operations; harassment of residents; obstructing critically needed community infrastructure; removing tourist amenities; excessive land acquisitions that threaten the tax bases of local communities; incompetent forest management that creates severe fire danger: these are but a sampling of the constant complaints we routinely receive from the public and its locally elected representatives.
Forest Service law enforcement abuses have become so egregious in recent years that the elected sheriffs of two counties in my district have revoked permission for the Forest Service to enforce state and local laws within their jurisdictions.
We have found time and again that when federal land managers tell us they work closely with the public, they are referring not to the locally elected officials (who by definition represent the public, speak for the public and are directly answerable to the public) but rather they refer to narrow, self-appointed, ideologically extreme interest groups purporting to speak for the public.
I believe this draft legislation offers us an opportunity to restore the cooperation and comity between federal land managers and local communities that Gifford Pinchot envisioned when he founded the Forest Service. It would give communities greater say in the decisions that directly affect their economies, their residents and their quality of life, and it would begin restoring the federal government as a trusted partner and good neighbor of our mountain communities.
I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses for ideas about how we can improve this legislation.
I now recognize the ranking member for her opening statement.
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