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Interior Secretary Jewell Calls On Congress To Step Up For Conservation...Or President Obama Will


In an address last week to the National Press Club, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on Congress to become more conservation-minded.

Washington politics are infuriating, disappointing, enlightening, and entertaining. They rarely are dull. That is obvious based on what has transpired since October 1, when the federal government ran out of money.

* We saw a 16-day closure of the National Park System initially spurred by House Republicans...who then castigated National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis for how the parks were shuttered.

* We received a 208-page report from U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, that blamed the current state of the park system largely on those in Congress, but also on Park Service management.

* Most recently, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on Congress to support President Obama's broad conservation agenda...or the president will use his executive powers to move forward on parts of it.

In a speech last week before the National Press Club, the Interior secretary pointed to the value of public lands when it comes to climate change, clean air and water, and local economies. She talked about preserving these lands for generations yet to be born, of the need to "think about what conservation legacy we will leave for the next 50 years, for the next 100 years."

In short, she urged Congress to put up or shut up.

"The real test of whether you support conservation is not what you say in a press conference when the cameras are rolling, but whether you fight for it in the budget conference," Secretary Jewell told those at the Press Club gathering.

Some figurative fighting began last week almost immediately after Sen. Coburn issued his report, Parked! How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures, sections of which questioned the appropriateness of some units of the park system, such as Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. That immediately spurred bipartisan backlash from that state's congressional delegation, which pointed to the park not only as a breathtaking landscape but a key economic timber for area communities.

Which brings us back to Secretary Jewell's speech, which drew praise from the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, two groups that were critical of Sen. Coburn's take on the parks.

“With less than three years before the centennial of our National Park System, we agree with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that Congress should adopt a rational budget that recognizes the value of national parks, conservation and their economic contribution to communities nationwide," said Theresa Pierno, NPCA's acting president. "We also agree that there is a need to improve the balance between conservation and energy development on our public lands and to continue to protect important new natural and cultural areas as national monuments.

“Secretary Jewell’s strong statements on the value of conservation to our nation and to our future are welcome, and should be heeded. The Secretary was correct that, in the wake of the federal government shutdown, the real test of congressional support for national parks, park visitors, and local park economies will be the outcome of the budget conference now occurring between the House and Senate," Ms. Pierno went on. "The administration’s response to that conference and the president’s budget proposal for FY 2015 will also be tests. The National Parks Conservation Association calls on Congress to end the mindless sequester cuts and restore critically needed investments in our national parks and public lands. We also call on the administration to propose a budget for FY 2015 that takes meaningful, bold steps to restore and renew our national parks and ready them for their second century."

Coalition officials issued a short, but definitive, statement endorsing the secretary's speech: "CNPSR fully endorses the programs she outlined and her eloquent defense of the nation's national parks, public lands and the overall work of the Department of the Interior. Secretary Jewell is thinking big and that is befitting for the Department Head that stewards the vast majority of the nation's public lands."

While leading Republicans in Congress likely will give little merit to the Interior secretary's speech, they might focus on her mention that President Obama "is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short" when it comes to conserving public lands as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, units of the National Park System, or in some other protected form.

To buttress that point, Secretary Jewell said that "(I)n the coming weeks and months, I will be meeting with communities and evaluating opportunities where action can ensure that our nation’s stories and landscapes are honored, celebrated and preserved for the generations to come."

Her road trip likely will draw ire from U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who in particular have been highly vocal in the past with their opposition to the president wielding his executive power to create, for example, national monuments.

The ongoing partisan rancor, which has led to congressional grandstanding, poses a great danger to the country's conservation movement if it's allowed to overwhelm positive steps that are being made.

Among currently pending legislation that would further conservation across the country are:

* H.R. 139, the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act that would preserve the Arctic coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, as wilderness.

* H.R. 145, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act that would create more than 333,000 acres of wilderness in Idaho.

* S. 1294, the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which would create more than 19,550 acres of wilderness in Tennessee

Unfortunately, these measures' chances of passage are gauged by as being slim or none.

Here's hoping that Congress shows some rare statesmanship in guiding the affairs of the country.


The total budget deficit for FY13 was $680B down from $1.09T in FY12(spending was down 2.3% overall). NPS spent $ 2.97B, 9% less than the agency did in FY12. NPS FY13 Operations spending through August 31st was down 7% compared to the same point in FY12($1.91B vs $2.05B). (see page 228)

Also, DOI's Agency Financial Report contains the external audit report that the Department receives every year.


"First, many Tea Party activists do not believe in a federally funded education system. By eliminating education programs at the Smithsonian, this may be the first step in highlighting just how good America’s education system can be without federal interference.

Second, perhaps the National Parks Service would consider privatizing its security force guarding the memorials? Would this be less costly?

Third, why should taxpayer money go towards rangers whose job is to “interact with visitors?” Aren’t rangers supposed to be there for security and other more important matters?

And, finally, many fiscal conservatives have said the federal government should sell some of its National Parks, thus divesting the government of costly assets and providing one-time extra revenue that should go towards balancing the budget. This may be a good time to make that case again to the American people, taking advantage of sequestration."

I'm pretty sure many of us are aware of "The Tea Party Way" and have an understanding of what it entails.

We've all seen the Tea Party way. They put my wife on furlough for a couple of weeks when she would rather be doing her job. Do a Google image search on Tea Party rally and enjoy a cross section of America that Dante couldn't come close to illustrating. Don't forget to put the Cruz/Palin-2016 posters up on the wall.

Quoting Princess Bride without already being cool doesn't make you cool.

I will say only this. On October 1, The House of Representatives sent to the Senate a bill ending the shutdown for national parks, veterans affairs, and health. As majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said no. He then complained in a speech on the Senate floor that Lake Mead National Recreational had been forced to close. I watched the speech on C-Span while under "house arrest" at the lodge in Zion National Park. But wait a minute. HE said no to the House bill. The parks could have been reopened had Reid said yes.

And now the Democrats want to blame the Republicans for shutting down the national parks? Hmmm. That's not what I heard and saw, but perhaps someone heard and saw it differently. The bottom line is this: If in fact the House sent the Senate a bill to reopen the parks--and Harry Reid said no--the Senate closed the parks. If the Traveler and all of us as commentators are to be taken seriously, we need to get our facts straight, so let's get this one straight. Was there in fact a House bill to reopen the parks that Reid rejected? Was it simply to reopen the parks, or did it have serious strings? Reid said nothing about any strings, other than that the shutdown should end across the board. In that case, who (and why) accepted that Utah, Arizona, and Colorado could reopen their parks with state-appropriated funds?

If I were writing this years from now as a historian, those are the questions and facts I would follow. So what are the facts? Who really shut down the parks? The facts, please, not just propaganda. So far, history doesn't show that the Republicans hate our national parks. But it does show that Harry Reid is a politician--and a good one for convincing us of just that.

Kurt, Point to you for mentioning Senator Coburn. Lots of waste out there for sure. Of course Sen Coburn isn't the first legislator who has highlighted govt. waste. Remember Senator William Proxmire from Wisconsin? His Golden Fleece award highlighted this kind of stuff for 20 years.

Pointing it out gets nothing done. There has to be a dedication within government to deal with waste and un-necessary expenditures (not necessarily the same thing). The current administration has no interest in this stuff.

Leadership in addressing the deficit and the debt must come from the top. Evidently, the top today is vacant. At least, there is no leadership available there. So we deal issues, usually involving additional entitlements and spending while the Republic burns.

Senator Coburn is ignored, despised by the other side for bring this stuff up and generally, has little ability to get much done. Senator Proxmire was probably the same. He does have one feature that sets him apart from the pack. He was something as rare as a passenger pigeon! He was a Democrat! Imagine! Today, he couldn't even get elected in Wisconsin! Maybe the Democrats have moved as far left as the Republicans are believed to have moved to the right.

Until we have a change in government we will have to settle for the little bit of reduced spending that is resulting from the sequester. Too bad it's a meat ax approach and hits good and bad programs alike. But it's something.

Just an FYI - the bills never made it out of the House. They didn't have enough votes - they needed 2/3s and couldn't get it. That was on October 2.

So, the House did not send the Senate a bill and Harry Reid did not say no.

BTW - Senate Democrats passed a bill to end the shutdown and the republican house refused to consider it.


Of the five items mentioned in the OPINION piece of ONE party member, I find only one of questionable merit - the interpretive ranger item. As I suspected the "Tea Party isn't what you or Kurt believe. Look at this list of 10 principles.

Tell me what could be objectionable about those principles.

They put my wife on furlough for a couple of weeks

No Rick, the Dems refusal to negotiate and then their voting to keep the parks closed is what gave your wife her paid vacation.

Whatever you want to believe. You aren't convincing anyone, but keep telling yourself the party talking points.

I'm done with Monday Morning Whack-a-mole and putting you back on ignore for a while.

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