National Parks Under Threat: Why NPCA Opposes New Farm Bill Amendments in the Senate
Update, June 19, 2012: The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act amendments discussed in this article are officially no longer part of the Farm Bill package the Senate is expected to vote on today. Thanks to all who took action to stop these harmful amendments–this news is a big victory for national parks.
In Congress, lawmakers will often take a bill on one thing and “amend” it with legislation on another, totally different issue. And so, as lawmakers hash out the details of the Farm Bill–you know, the gigantic set of policies for food and agriculture programs?–one senator has proposed language that would allow this legislation to affect national parks far into the future. You can take action now to help prevent this harmful language from becoming law.
On Tuesday, Senator James Risch of Idaho offered an amendment to the Farm Bill with language from the “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act”–a dangerous bill that passed the House in April that could open national parks to hunting that were never intended to accommodate the practice. Our recent Q&A on the Sportsmens Heritage Act explains in detail why NPCA strongly opposes the measure and is working to exclude all national park units that do not currently allow hunting from any potential legislation.
NPCA commissioned a legal analysis last month that found serious implications from the proposed hunting language beyond the incompatibility of allowing hunting, shooting, and trapping at historic and educational sites and family vacation spots. If enacted, it could also create lengthy and resource-intensive hurdles for park managers to prohibit hunting on a park-by-park basis, and it could allow environmentally destructive off-road vehicles to travel more extensively through sensitive backcountry areas–anywhere sportsmen needed them to hunt, trap, or fish.
But wait, there’s more. With all of the news and attention around concerns over hunting, another problem with this legislation has been getting less attention: language that would weaken the Antiquities Act.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows presidents to designate national monuments on existing federal land to protect important and superlative landscapes, artifacts, wildlife, and scientific resources from development and other threats. The language in Senator Risch’s amendment would require new hurdles–the approval of state legislatures and governors–to offer these same protections to sites of national significance. This burden would slow preservation efforts at best, and at worst, it could deny protections to culturally valuable lands around the country.
What’s so important about the Antiquities Act? The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, the Statue of Liberty, Olympic National Park, Acadia National Park, Fort Monroe National Monument–even Thomas Edison’s lab in Edison, New Jersey–these are just a few of the many places around the country that presidents have preserved thanks to this act. Imagine what these places would look like now if presidents had not taken action to protect them, and how important it is to continue to protect the places the define our history.
-Jennifer Errick, Editor, Online Communications