This July the House of Representatives passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. You would think that those who passed the bill would be touting its benefits to our troops, celebrating new programs to keep Americans safe, and maintaining the basic needs of our military during a pandemic.
Instead, several members of the House of Representatives celebrated their success in sneaking over 1 million acres of wilderness designations into the House version of the defense bill.
The Protecting America’s Wilderness Act – introduced by Representative Degette from Colorado – is the first bill that was added to the NDAA. This bill will restrict recreation access to 1.4 million acres of land located primarily in areas traditionally designated as multiple use in Colorado, California, and Washington. Wilderness is the most restrictive land-use designation, and wilderness designations always result in loss of access for numerous public land users. The bill’s sponsor falsely claims wilderness designation will provide economic benefits to the surrounding areas. By restricting motorized recreation, wilderness designations limit that sizable economic impacts that could come from shared-use management of public lands.
The CORE Act – introduced by Representative Neguse – was also added to the NDAA. This bill would impact access in another 400,000 acres in Colorado.
Fortunately the Senate version of the NDAA did not include these provisions that will destroy recreation access while having nothing to do with our national defense. However, it is still possible that Congress could include these provisions in the conference version of the NDAA. In fact, the Senate held hearings this week on this very topic.
Bills that restrict access should have to be debated on their own merits and not added to defense bills. It is urgent that we contact members of Congress and tell them we don’t want any lame duck wilderness bills.
The most important members to contact are Senator Murkowski from Alaska. She is the Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. These land bills should have gone through her committee, and she should use her seniority to make sure that these bills follow the regular order of the Senate. You can reach Senator Murkowski’s office at 202-224-6665.
It is also important to contact Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma. He is the Senator who will ultimately determine what gets included in the final version of the NDAA. You can reach Senator Inhofe’s office at 202-224-4721.
Remember to be courteous when you contact their offices and let them know you don’t support these lame duck land grabs. It is also good to always contact your own representatives on issues like these.
We will contact these offices and others as well, and if you want to sign the following petition, we will make sure your comment is considered.