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The Congressional Anti-Parks Caucus In Power


The Center for American Progress has compiled its "anti-parks caucus" in Congress that is working to dismantle national monuments, such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah/BLM

Who in Congress can be described as having an "anti-parks" voting record? With 535 members of Congress, that could be a difficult question to soundly answer. But the Center for American Progress has come up with a list of 19 members who, perhaps emboldened by the Trump administration's views on public lands, it has defined as the "anti-parks caucus" in Washington, D.C.

The list is somewhat open-ended, with the Center including politicians who not only have gone on record as wanting to gut The Antiquities Act that presidents have used since 1906 to establish national monuments but also those who have introduced or supported legislation pertaining to energy development on public lands, measures to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, and measures pertaining to national forests. Not surprisingly, the members all come from Western states with large expanses of federal lands within their borders. 

Also not surprising is that four of the 19 members hail from Utah, where the state's congressional delegation lobbied the Trump administration to either downsize or try to abolish Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

This is how the Center identified its anti-parks caucus:

1) Sponsorship or introduction of anti-park legislation, including efforts to weaken or dismantle the Antiquities Act or seize and sell public lands; use of the Congressional Review Act to overturn rules that protect taxpayers and public health; attempts to exclude the public from engaging in decision making on land management; attacks on protections of specific public lands, including the Arctic Refuge; and other attempts to limit publicly available land for recreation or habitat conservation.

2) The number of anti-park bills the member co-sponsored.

3) Written or verbal statements that support anti-park legislation or values. This includes statements to the press, official letters, floor statements, and tweets.

4) Attendance at the April signing of Trump’s executive order on national monuments.

To be included in the anti-parks caucus, members have either introduced bad Antiquities Act legislation or land seizure legislation in addition to sponsoring or co-sponsoring at least three other anti-park bills; or they have co-sponsored upwards of seven anti-park bills, in addition to making an anti-park statement. The current attack on national monuments and the seizure of public lands could have serious and long-term consequences to access to and protection of public lands for future generations, therefore support of those efforts carry extra weight in our determination.

So, who's in the caucus? Here's the list and the Center's brief description of the politician's behavior that merited their inclusion:

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

As Chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, Rep. Bishop drives the agenda on parks, public lands, and natural resource issues for the House of Representatives. His committee has taken up bill after bill that threaten bedrock conservation laws such as the Antiquities Act and the Endangered Species Act, aim to transfer public lands out of public ownership, or sell out public lands to the oil and gas industry.

To begin the year, Bishop authored a piece of the House Rules bill that valued all public lands at zero dollars. The provision, which passed the House in January, made it easier for the government to sell or give away public lands at the expense of the American taxpayer. Bishop has also recently introduced a bill aimed at selling out public lands and oceans for oil and gas development that includes both a land seizure provision, and language that would prevent the designation of future marine national monuments.

Bishop has also been a driving force behind the administration’s attack on national monuments. He was one of the first members of congress to ask the Trump administration to get rid of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and has been a long-time enemy of the Antiquities Act. In a recent interview on CSPAN, he stated “You know that I don’t like the Antiquities Act. I would be happy if it just disappeared.” He has also sponsored legislation for one of the most egregious attacks against the Antiquities Act—the National Monument Creation and Protection Act. The misleadingly named bill would place arbitrary size limits on national monuments, along with other hurdles that would make new monument designations nearly impossible. The bill also includes explicit provisions that would allow future presidents to get rid of national monuments.0

Bishop’s support of anti-park measures runs the gamut. Just this year he has signed on to bills to get rid of rules that protect streams near coal mining operations, capture wasted methane, and give local communities a voice in land management decisions. He has also vocally supported opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Sen. Murkowski is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and similarly sets the direction for many of the topics of debate in this sphere. Murkowski said she “strongly support[s]” Trump’s executive order on national monuments and even attended the signing ceremony. She also introduced S.33, legislation that would require congressional and state legislature approval for any new national monument designations. If passed, the bill would severely limit the ability to protect new national monuments.

In addition to her attacks on monuments, Murkowski has a focus on opening up protected lands in Alaska for oil development. Most recently, the Senator is leading the charge to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling by slipping it into the ongoing tax reform legislation. She has previously sponsored legislation that would allow for development on the Refuge’s fragile Coastal Plain and another that would build a road directly through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. She has also co-sponsored three other anti-park bills.

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

In addition to signing on to a letter in support of Zinke’s monuments review, Rep. Amodei joined with Sen. Dean Heller to introduce the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act, which would require congressional approval for any new national monument in Nevada. Given that Congress is slow to get even must-pass legislation through, this would make protecting new monuments in the state nearly impossible. Amodei has also co-sponsored two land seizure bills and two other anti-parks bills so far this session.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

When President Trump signed the executive order on monuments, Rep. Cheney released a statement calling the Antiquities Act “a vehicle to seize land.” Cheney has also sponsored three anti-park bills so far this session, including one that would make it more difficult for communities to be involved in Bureau of Land Management planning decisions, and one that would lift the moratorium placed on federal coal leasing. She has also co-sponsored five additional anti-park bills, including two pieces of land seizure legislation.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)

Rep. Cramer has been prolific in his support of anti-park legislation, co-sponsoring eight anti-park bills so far this session. The bills range from land seizure to bills aimed at rolling back common sense public lands protections put in place by the Obama administration, including one that would re-instate a loophole allowing coal companies to dodge royalty payments owed to U.S. taxpayers. Cramer has also signed on to a letter in support of eliminating national monuments, and he attended the signing of a secretarial order to roll back a number of protections, one of which set safety standards for oil and gas drilling inside national parks.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

In addition to signing the congressional letter in support of Trump’s executive order on national monuments, Sen. Crapo introduced S. 132, a bill that would put extreme restrictions on the creation of new national monuments. He has also co-sponsored a similar Antiquities Act bill, a land seizure bill, and bill to reverse a rule protecting water from nearby coal mining operations.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Flake has sponsored two land seizure bills so far this session. The first would blatantly sell off an undisclosed number of national public lands in Mohave County. The other would allow states, counties, and private companies to lay claim to thousands of miles of highways and other so-called rights-of-way within public lands that would fragment the landscape for wildlife and recreationists. Flake has additionally co-sponsored three other anti-park bills and signed on to a congressional letter in support of the monuments review.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

Rep. Gohmert introduced the land seizure bill H.R. 928, which would give states the sole authority over regulating and permitting oil and gas development in their states, even on national public lands. He expressed a similar sentiment of “getting these decisions back to state and local levels” because “nowhere do you have more participation than the local level” when supporting a similar provision in the ONSHORE Act. But these provisions wouldn’t encourage more participation. Instead they would virtually ensure that drilling would become the dominant use of public lands, pushing out the voices of those who use the lands for hunting, fishing, grazing, or outdoor recreation. Gohmert has also co-sponsored five additional anti-park bills this session.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)

Rep. Gosar has introduced a bill that would sell off federal lands and another that would make it easier to drill in national parks. In addition, Gosar co-sponsored nearly every anti-park bill he could get his hands on, totaling 10 so far this session. The bills cover nearly every attack against parks and public lands including land seizure bills, bills that would strip that Antiquities Act, and others that would overturn commonsense regulations.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

“I’m approving the Bears Ears recommendation for you, Orrin.” That’s what the president reportedly told Sen. Hatch when deciding to completely gut protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. At the signing of the Executive Order on national monuments, Hatch received the pen Trump used to sign the order and was personally congratulated by the president for pushing to so hard on this issue.

Hatch has been one of the biggest adversaries of national monuments in Congress, particularly against the Native American-led designation of Bears Ears as a national monument. When speaking about the administration’s monument review, Hatch remarked that “the Indians, they don’t fully understand a lot of the things they currently take for granted on those lands.”

Additionally, Hatch has co-sponsored eight anti-park pieces of legislation, including attacks on monuments and endangered species, and attempts to sell off public lands.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

In addition to co-sponsoring three anti-park bills, Sen. Heller joined with Rep. Mark Amodei to introduce, the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act, which would require congressional approval for any newly designated or expanded national monuments in Nevada. The bill would make it nearly impossible to protect these in the state given the sluggish pace of congressional action.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Sen. Inhofe, who is perhaps best known for being a climate science denier, introduced two land seizure bills, S. 334 and S. 335. The bills would both give states the authority to recklessly pursue energy development on public lands by waiving environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, and transferring all control over permitting, leasing, and regulation. In addition to these, Inhofe co-sponsored four anti-parks bills in January alone that would undermine the Antiquities Act or threaten other national conservation efforts.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)

Rep. Labrador sponsored H.R. 2284, which would put extreme restrictions on the creation of national monuments including requiring state and congressional approval for all new designations. In the same vein, Labrador took to Facebook to applaud President Trump’s decision to review and potentially eliminate national monuments. He included numerous links referring to national monuments as “massive land grabs.” Labrador has also co-sponsored four other anti-parks bills in the past year.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)

Rep. Lamalfa has so far co-sponsored seven anti-parks bills this year. Three of those are directed at dismantling the Antiquities Act, which LaMalfa views as a reckless “federal land grab.” In addition to vehemently supporting the president’s review of national monument designations, LaMalfa has specifically targeted the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in his district, a pristine area in the Pacific Northwest set aside for the preservation of biodiversity.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

In addition to the six anti-park bills he has co-sponsored this year, Sen. Lee has also introduced legislation that would prevent species that have small enough ranges that they are only found in one state, from being protected under the Endangered Species Act. Lee also sponsored four different anti-park amendments to the FY18 budget which would block use of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, sell off public lands, and further impede the establishment of new national monuments.

Lee was also one of just a handful of phone calls President Trump made recently to confirm that he would be indeed gutting protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)

On November 9, Rep. Steve Pearce signed on to a letter to President Trump applauding his monument review and requesting that he shrink or remove completely “a majority of the monuments under review.” In the letter, the members call national monuments “affronts to our very mode of governance”.[53] Rep. Pearce’s extensive track record of co-sponsoring anti-parks legislation includes seven bills this year.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Rep. Sessions has co-sponsored nine pieces of anti-parks legislation so far this year. Some of the most egregious of these include H.R. 3333, a federal land sell-off bill; S. 33, a bill requiring gubernatorial review of national monument designations; and H.R. 2936, which would make it easier to clear cut forests by waiving substantive environmental review measures. Another bill that Sessions co-sponsored sought to overturn a rule that limited hunters from using unfair baiting practices on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands in Alaska. At the time, he called the rule, which prevents bear cubs from being shot in their dens, “oppressive” and “crucial that we overturn.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Rep. Stewart is a staunch opponent of the Antiquities Act and has fervently supported shrinking the size of Bears Ears National Monument, which he believes is “long overdue.” In addition to attending the signing of the executive order which called for a review of designations under the Antiquities Act, Stewart has co-sponsored seven anti-parks bills this year.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Rep. Young has sponsored six anti-parks bills and has co-sponsored four others this year. In response to Secretary Zinke’s national monuments review, Young said “For too long, we’ve seen the crippling impacts associated with the monument designation process … The days of Presidents unilaterally closing off thousands of acres of land or water must change.” Young must not know that national monuments are some of the best places for outdoor recreation or that the Grand Canyon, for example—originally protected as a national monument—brought in $648.2 million to surrounding communities last year. Young also sponsored two bills that would nearly eliminate the ability for a president to create national monuments that protect ocean waters and marine areas.

"The positions of members of the Anti-parks caucus vary greatly from those of the public, from others in Congress, and even other Congressional Republicans. For example, members like Sen. Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Burr (R-NC) have largely shunned extreme legislation and even worked across the aisle in some instances to support parks and public lands," Jenny Rowland and Kyle Cornish of the Center wrote in a release identifying the 19.

"Examining some of the characteristics and approaches of members of the anti-parks caucus helps to explain why these lawmakers are comfortable taking positions that greatly diverge from those of the American public and most of their fellow members of Congress," they continued. "The common threads include: an association with far right factions of the Republican party such as the Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, and Liberty Caucus; a non-competitive district; and a wider-than-average margin by which Donald Trump won their district or state. Every member of the anti-parks caucus, with the exception of Sen. Dean Heller—who is considered perhaps the most vulnerable member of the GOP for a primary challenge from the right—falls into at least one of these three categories."

The Center's release ended by concluding that, "(W)ith alarmingly few checks in the White House and Congress to stop the extreme attacks on public lands, our national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments, and other natural areas are facing existential threats. It is critical to help shine a spotlight on the unofficial, but powerful, anti-parks caucus and their work with the Trump administration to push an agenda that is unpopular with a majority of Americans. These lawmakers should be recognized as operating in the right-most fringe of the Republican party and fighting against the future of our national parks, monuments, and public lands."

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You may as well add Rep. Tom Emmer, Republican, MN for his stand on copper sulfite mining in the BWCA watershed (with it's close proximity to Voyageurs N.P.) and the bill he introduced that will allow a foreign company to come in and start mining without an EIS.

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