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Panel Decries Natural Resources Laws Led Astray, Outlines Local Consequences of Executive Overreach

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held the first of a series of oversight hearings to examine the impacts of federal natural resources laws gone astray. The panel focused on three laws in particular: the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), the Wilderness Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).   

For too long, federal agencies have been permitted to disregard congressional intent and implement the laws Congress passes sometimes ignoring the law’s original purpose,” Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) said. “[W]e must look to curb abuse by the Executive Branch and reassert power over the unelected bureaucracy.”

“I do not believe it was the intent of Congress to disenfranchise communities like mine when laws like FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were originally enacted, but that is certainly where we have ended up,” David Cook, a rancher from Globe, Arizona, said.

FLPMA, enacted in 1976, codified congressional intent to manage federal lands on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield. Land management agencies have instead used the act to withdraw millions of acres of federal locatable minerals in westerns states, deny permits to renew grazing allotments for ranchers, and attempt to expand the statute to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

Celeste Maloy, Deputy Attorney of Washington County, UT, asked for congressional action to “stop the expansion of agency authority” as land management agencies have far exceeded their statutory authority.

"My experience in interacting with land management agencies, particularly the Bureau of Land Management, is that administrative processes overshadow the agency mission given by Congress,"  Maloy said.

Local governments “have few effective options for limiting agency overreach. We cannot vote them out of office. We cannot fire them,” she added.   

Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon addressed the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) failure to abide by the IRA and its own guidelines when accepting land into trust on behalf of Indian tribes, and the resulting effects on states and localities.

Bureaucrats within the DOI have abused the IRA, Dillon argued, “to completely strip state and local governments of their authority over local land use, with little to no regard for state and local concerns.”

The IRA limited the Secretary’s ability to put land into trust only to Indians who were members of tribes “now under federal jurisdiction” as of the IRA’s enactment in 1934.  However, despite this clear statutory prohibition, the federal government has routinely placed land into trust for members of tribes that were recognized after enactment of the IRA.

Click here to view full witness testimony.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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