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Floor Statements

Chairman Hastings' Statement on H.R. 2954, the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2014 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings delivered the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 2954, the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act.

“Mr. Chairman, the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act, H.R. 2954, is a bipartisan package of 10 bills to protect and promote public access to lands; to improve opportunities by removing red tape that stands in the way of responsible, local economic development and jobs; and to encourage transparent, community-centered land management.

This small grouping of bills will advance important local projects that will have a direct impact on jobs and economic growth in communities throughout the country.

The package includes several common sense land conveyance bills to remove unnecessary, bureaucratic strings attached to how land is used and managed. It recognizes that locally-elected leaders, not federal bureaucrats, know how to best manage certain lands.

There are measures to prevent unreasonable federal regulations or actions from destroying an historic lookout tower in Washington State, blocking reasonable public recreation access to the Cape Hatteras seashore in North Carolina, and preventing the use of hand-powered boats, such as kayaks, in several national parks in the West.

The bill will help family businesses and ranchers by implementing common sense reforms to the process of renewing livestock grazing permits. Livestock grazing on federal lands is an important part of the American ranching tradition. This bill will help our nation’s ranchers operate more efficiently and with greater certainty.

The package also includes legislation, sponsored by Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop, requiring the BLM to establish an Internet database for all BLM lands that are available for sale to the public. In the year 2014, when a Seahawks fan can purchase a championship hat on the Internet just moments after the Superbowl ends, the federal government can certainly get its act together and post lands for sale online.

This bill will expedite the planning and implementation of emergency salvage timber sales for federal lands in California that were ravaged by the Rim Fire last summer. Without prompt emergency action, the impacts of this devastating wildfire would become even worse. Fire-damaged trees invite disease, insect infestations, increase the risk of future wildfires, and are a threat to visitor safety. Emergency salvage and forest restoration efforts should not be delayed due to bureaucratic hurdles and lawsuits.

Finally, the bill provides for transparency and accountability in how federal funds are spent in protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

This small package of bills is reasonable, responsible, and reflects the will of local communities and their elected leaders. It deserves the support of both Democrat and Republican Members.

Before concluding, I would like to briefly address the legislative work of the Committee as a whole.

Just this week, the House will have considered three measures from the Natural Resources Committee. Two of these were packages of individual bills, which means a total of 18 different bills from the Committee will have effectively been considered, debated, and voted upon by the House this week.

Prior to this week, over the first 13 months of this Congress, the Committee has advance nearly 60 individual bills through the House. Nearly 50 of these bills passed on a broad bipartisan basis under the expedited suspension process. Ten bills under the jurisdiction of the Committee, both Republican and Democrat, have been signed by the President, which represents a noticeable percentage of public laws enacted in this Congress. These totals do not include individual bills included in other measures, such as Defense Authorization Act.

This statement is not made as a pat on the back, but to make clear the intent of this Committee to dutifully work and act on priorities for our Nation, be they narrow bills to resolve a parochial problem or broad measures affecting the country as a whole.

In matters of broad policy, some are of great urgency, such as the importance of restoring responsible, active forest management to both support economically struggling rural communities and to improve the health of federal forests. And just yesterday, the House moved swiftly to provide a solution to the devastating drought in California.

We’ve also acted on multiple bipartisan measures to streamline red tape and boost America’s ability to safely harness our vast energy resources to create jobs, lower prices and strengthen our national security by reducing our dependence on energy from hostile foreign countries.

On each of these measures, it is time for the Senate to act and to pass their own proposals so that we can then work to reach an agreement that meets the needs of the American people and can become law. We have differences, but we have a responsibility to represent those we were elected to serve and put forward real solutions for the challenges facing the American people. And there are dozens of bills solving local problems, implementing locally-support solutions, and establishing protections for historic and special places that can be acted upon by both the House and the Senate.

I have faith this is possible. That on matters under the jurisdiction of the Natural Resources Committee, that we can find common ground with the Senate. Why? Because we’ve successfully done so repeatedly over the last year. That’s why there are a noticeable number of public laws from our Committees.

To be clear, this will require a willingness to recognize and respect differences in philosophy and procedure in both the House and Senate. And it must be a two-way street where each chamber acts on the other’s priorities. But, again, this has successfully been done and can be done. The Republican Majority in the House has demonstrated our willingness to do so while maintaining our fundamental views on federal land management, the importance of multiple use of public lands, and the ability of local communities to make better decisions for themselves than federal bureaucracies.

So as we conclude this week’s full slate of action on Natural Resources Committee bills, I pledge to continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and both sides of the Capitol, to make progress in days, weeks and months ahead.

I reserve the balance of my time.”