Alexah Rogge 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  This week Congressman Russ Fulcher joined many of his Republican colleagues to submit amendments to H.R. 803, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. While all three amendments were rejected by the Democrat-controlled rules committee earlier this week, Congressman Fulcher spoke on the House floor this evening in opposition of the overall bill.

Watch Congressman Fulcher’s floor speech here.

Congressman Fulcher’s three amendments would have amended the following in H.R. 803:

  1. Allow the relevant County Commissioners to petition the relevant Secretary to perform certain necessary activities as neighboring communities to Wilderness Study Areas or Wildness Areas.
  2. Require the relevant Secretary to receive written approval from a State when appropriating and/or adjudicating surface water rights and stream flows across any wilderness or wilderness study area.
  3. State that nothing in this Act allows the relevant Secretary to supersede State water law or water rights appropriated and adjudicated under State authority.

In regard to the amendments, Congressman Fulcher commented, “I am very disappointed to see these amendments thrown out. These were common-sense improvements to preserve state sovereignty over water rights and give our counties a voice in designated Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. This unwillingness to even allow my amendments to be debated on the House Floor is further proof that many politicians in Washington, DC simply do not consider the issues of Western states in much of their policy making.”

H.R. 308 passed the House tonight and is on it’s way to the Senate. The bill will designate 1.5 million acres of new wilderness, withdraws millions of acres from mineral production, expands about 110,000 acres of national monument land, and adds over 400,000 acres of special management areas in four Western states. This package aims to arbitrarily restrict access to public lands and waters, while eliminating jobs in the energy and mining industry. The biggest concern with the creation of wilderness areas in these Western states is the increased threat of disastrous wildfires, and restriction of forest management that pose a direct threat for adjacent communities.  

Congressman Fulcher commented on H.R. 308 on the House floor this evening, “This bill would add 1.5 million acres of new wilderness area, monument expansion, scenic rivers—and that sounds pretty good. But here’s the rest of the story. And this is coming from someone who’s home state is two thirds federally owned. This bill also comes with a critical mineral ban on things like Uranium. China and Russia will thank us for that. This bill also comes with a ban on any active land management which is a welcome mat for wildfires. It’s simple: if we don’t manage it, a lightning strike will. That’s too bad for wildlife, the environment, and productive use, but at least we get the privilege of spending taxpayer dollars on wildfire suppression. We can’t rationalize the contents of this bill to the objective American taxpayer, but that’s what happens when legislation gets rammed through without one markup, or adequate bipartisan review.”

More information from the House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member can be found here.