Press Release: Groups Slam House Passage of “No More National Parks” Bill
President asked to protect land and break House conservation blockade
WASHINGTON, DC (March 26, 2014) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that has been dubbed the “No More National Parks” bill. A broad coalition of groups opposed the bill including more than 90 conservation groups, the NAACP, Hispanic Federation, Vet Voice Foundation, sportsmen’s organizations and businesses.
The bill limits Presidential authority under the Antiquities Act to act swiftly to protect iconic historical, cultural and natural sites. Since President Teddy Roosevelt pushed for the passage of the Antiquities Act, it has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 Presidents (8 Republicans and 8 Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural and historic places such as the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty and Canyons of the Ancients. Half of America’s National Parks were originally protected using the Antiquities Act, including Acadia, Zion and Olympic National Parks.
“Protecting public lands and designating national monuments through the use of the Antiquities Act is something that sustains jobs, grows our economy, and adds to the quality of life for generations to come. Our employees and customers enjoy whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, climbing, skiing and fishing in many of these designated areas and we believe that H.R. 1459 is an ill-advised attempt to roll back public land protection,” commented Lisa Pike Sheehy, Director of Global Environmental Initiatives with Patagonia, the outerwear clothing and gear company.
Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, who produced the Emmy-winning documentary series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, this week called the Antiquities Act, “the most important tool in the history of American conservation.” They went on to say that “To weaken it would be the biggest blow to land conservation and the future of national parks since the time the Act was first passed [in 1906].”
The “No New National Parks” bill is part of a larger effort by the House of Representatives to block land protection measures and exploit public lands. With the exception of a bill to protect wilderness lands in Michigan, Congress had not protected a single new acre of public lands since 2009, the longest such drought since World War II. Earlier this week, Texas Rep. Pete Olson called for oil and gas drilling in National Parks.
Groups are now calling on President Obama to reject the bill and instead advance land conservation initiatives.
“With a House majority hell-bent on preventing new National Parks and even pushing oil and gas drilling in our National Parks and monuments, it is up to President Obama to advance conservation. President Obama should respond to local communities who want to see their natural and cultural heritage safeguarded by designating new National Monuments,” said Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation.
National Monuments and public lands are an essential part of state economies. Outdoor recreation funnels $646 billion into the U.S. economy and supports more than 6 million jobs. In New Mexico, the 2013 designation of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument has already resulted in a 40% increase in visitation and substantial increase in revenues in Taos County within the past year.
Ironically, the legislation passed the day after the one year anniversary of five national monuments which were supported by local elected officials, Chambers of commerce, minority groups and sportsmen, and widely praised by both Democrats and Republicans alike.