Speech in Opposition to H.R. 1957 Great America Outdoors Act
July 22, 2020
Speech in Opposition to H.R. 1957
Great America Outdoors Act
July 22, 2020
I represent the Sierra Nevada of California. Yosemite Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Lake Tahoe are all within my district. The Yosemite Land Grant Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1864 was the first time the Federal Government set aside land for “public use, resort and recreation … for all time.”
Today, the federal estate has grown to 640 million acres, 28 percent of the land area of our nation. While the federal government owns just 7/10ths of one percent of New York and 1.8 percent of Texas, it owns 46 percent of my home state of California – and 93 percent of Alpine County in my district.
We in the Sierra revere our public lands and are proud to share them with the world. But the federal government now holds far more land than it can take care of.
The federal lands now face a $20 billion backlog of deferred maintenance, making tourism less desirable. This is all land that is off the local tax rolls, denying our local governments vital revenues. Federal restrictions on productive use of these lands have devastated our local economies. And worst of all, the federal government has utterly neglected the management of our forests – to the point that they have become morbidly overgrown and now present a constant threat of catastrophic fire.
Shouldn’t we take care of the land we already hold before we acquire still more land? And when we’ve taken 2/3 of Alaska and Utah and 4/5ths of Nevada, shouldn’t we pause and ask for some balance?
This measure does provide enough money over the next five years to address about half of our deferred maintenance needs, and this is very good. But then that money disappears, and we’re left with a measure that locks in nearly a billion dollars a year in mandatory spending in perpetuity for new land acquisitions and places it outside of Congress’ control, while removing the requirement that future acquisitions be focused where the Federal government owns very little land.
It means that unelected bureaucrats will have a billion-dollar-a-year slush fund to take private property off the tax rolls with no accountability to our local communities, no provisions for long-term maintenance, and no reforms to protect our people from the scourge of wildfire produced by the continuing neglect of our federal forests.