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 govtrack.us as being slim or none.

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

Comments


pork is a miniscule piece of the problem.

In terms of overall spending that may be true, but as long as we (and congress) continue to view billions in tax dollars as "miniscule" we're unlikely to solve the problem.

There are no easy fixes to this issue, but we're more likely to solve it by virtue of combining a lot of "small" cuts than expecting to achieve a few really big ones.

Just for perspective: the amount of pork for FY12 cited in some of the above links would more than cover the entire annual budget for the NPS.


You can't pick and choose which congressmen you want to include. The question is Tea Party vs non-Tea Party and Tea Party congressmen


So, why would the 36 Congressmen on the list who secured $1 billion in pork be less representative of the Tea Party Caucus than the 16 Congressmen who didn't?

And among those 16, how many of them secured pork in other years? Bachmann would be one.


So, why would the 36 Congressmen on the list who secured $1 billion in pork be less representative of the Tea Party Caucus than the 16 Congressmen who didn't?


Because they are a self selected subset. Its the equivalent of doing a survey and then only accepting the answers from those that support your position. You know, like was done to come up with 99% of scientists believe in AGW.

Look, guys. Members of Congress--ALL members--are elected to "serve" their districts. They serve them by voting for pork. When I ran for mayor of Seattle eight years ago, the question was put to me every day: "What are you going to do for me?" If we want Congress to stop serving pork, we are the ones who need to stop asking for it. I refused to serve it and I lost the election. Today, whichever mayor we elect will have spent at least $500,000 promising to serve us pork. One of the candidates has spent $800,000. Stop blaming this on Republicans, Democrats, or the Tea Party. Start blaming this on us. We let this nonsense go on, even though we know what is happening. Our elections are being bought--and that means ALL elections, not just those of the "other" party. I would have made a damn good mayor, but no one wants a mayor who says "no." At least I learned one thing--Don't believe anything you read in the newspapers or hear on television. It has all been edited for content, i.e., dumbed down. Back to the national parks. Again, if you believe just what you want to hear from your party, you are missing the entire point. Neither party these days wants you to know what is really going on in Washington. Or in the world, for that matter. Behind the shutdown of our national parks are hidden agendas that have everything to do with staying in power. Power is what this is all about, and don't believe for a single instant that your party is not part of the problem. The proper response is to hold everyone to account and not let anyone "blame" the "other party. They all need a citizen reality check, and yes, the national parks are a great place to start. Close them again and you are OUT. I don't care what your "party" is. If you can't be a citizen, I don't want you to be a politcian, for being a good politician starts with citizenship.

Rock On, Alfred Runte! Refreshing to hear.

I must agree with trailadvocate, Mr. Al Runte's comments are right on. Having had some limited experience as chair of a political party central committee here in California for 4 years, well enough said. Part of the problem is that the rewards are so great, many of those who get into politics to do good and end up doing very well, thank you. Thank you Mr. Runte for your post.

Thanks for righting the ship, Alfred Runte.

Good points, Alfred. At least you don't live in Virginia. The candidates for the gubernatiorial election here had over $50M(mostly out-of-state super PACs) for a state with only 8.2M people.

Congress cannot "create wilderness", it can only designate Wilderness.

Words count. Not all that is proposed as Wilderness is actually wild.

I guess it's just semantics but Congress can "create" wilderness simply by doing nothing at all. Colorado is full of "wilderness" created as a result of study by BLM and FS over 30 years ago. Congress has never acted to designate so the areas have been managed as interim "wilderness" ever since. I suspect the rest of the west is chuck full of the same "study areas".

Yeah, ec, that Rand Paul is a real moderate, a believer in bipartisan cooperation, and a Senator admired by both parties in the Senate for his willingness to seek consensus on contentious issues.

Rick

OK, since we're really sliding off topic, we're gonna close this one to comments.