Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chair, I want to applaud the gentleman from Minnesota, Congressman Ellison, for bringing this amendment to the attention of the House.
We have had endless debate about the appropriate role of the National Environmental Policy Act in both the Natural Resources Committee as well as the House Committee on Transportation.
The underlying bill, H.R. 3590, includes language which would eliminate the need for the Fish and Wildlife Service to disclose, analyze, and take comments on decisions related to management decisions in national wildlife refuges.
I repeat that. They would not have to analyze or take comments from either side on decisions that relate to management decisions in national wildlife refuges. Never has there been a case made here during the lead-up to this bill, such as there was, and during the debate why we need this very broad NEPA exception which would, if they want to increase hunting, no NEPA analysis, if they want to decrease hunting, no NEPA analysis, no opportunity for the public to be involved in the process.
As we learned during the shutdown, the wildlife refuge system provides a tremendous opportunity--some of it very ephemeral in terms of seasons--for duck hunters, fishermen, and other sportsmen and -women across the country. In some densely populated areas like in Congressman Thompson's district, wildlife refuges are some of the only hunting areas open to the public, and especially the disabled public.
Why do we need to cut the public out, including disabled Americans, veterans, anybody, regarding these special places and their management when no evidence has been presented that NEPA is in any way an impediment to refuge management? It is just the standard boilerplate: repeal NEPA anywhere, everywhere, all the time, and maybe sooner or later it might stick. But it won't, given the veto threat on this bill and the fact that the Senate isn't going to act on it. But, anyway, it is in here.
There was an amendment to be offered by Congressman Broun from Georgia--which I was going to strongly support--which would have fixed the bill and probably brought a fair number of votes across the aisle by stripping these extraneous provisions regarding NEPA, wilderness, and everything that is under attack in this bill that doesn't need to be under attack in this bill. But I guess somehow, even though it was made in order, the Republican side has convinced him not to offer the amendment
because it would have passed, and it would have made the bill better.
So at this point, at least we could support the Ellison amendment as it relates to national wildlife refuges.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Well, Mr. Chairman, I guess all good things come to an end because I rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment. I oppose this amendment because it undermines what I consider to be a fundamental purpose of the law. The fundamental purpose that we are here for today is to protect our hunting and fishing traditions on Federal lands. We are making a clear statement that hunting and fishing are an important use of our multiple-use Federal lands.
This bill establishes a clear policy that Federal lands should be open for hunting and fishing unless specifically closed by a transparent and open Federal process. Let me repeat that, Mr. Chairman, that Federal lands should be open for hunting and fishing unless specifically closed by a transparent and open Federal process.
NEPA requires preparation of an environmental impact statement when a Federal agency proposes to take major Federal action. When H.R. 3590 is enacted in law, there will be no need for a costly and bureaucratic process currently necessary to make lands available for hunting and fishing. That process won't be necessary because it will be the law. Congress has spoken as to what the law is.
Again, this bill is designed to set out an open--unless specifically closed--process on BLM and Forest Service lands. As a result, no major Federal action would be needed or would take place to keep these lands open to these traditional important uses of our shared Federal lands.
If there is no administrative action, there is no need for an EIS or NEPA review. However, H.R. 3590 confirms an established understanding of the law that, should an agency move to close Federal lands, the agency should then undertake an open and public process before having the lands closed to our traditional uses.
Now, we know that these provisions are important because they fix a court-created problem regarding the implementation of the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. We have seen the clear track record that antihunter groups will use to tie up hunting and fishing access to Federal lands with endless lawsuits. This bill reverses this trend and makes our lands open for hunting and fishing. Again, Mr. Chairman, we are making the policy statement that this will be what the law of the
H.R. 3590 directs that our conservation dollars be spent on conservation activities in the field rather than on redundant paperwork and, of course, endless lawsuits. That is the goal of the bill that this amendment would undercut and which would undercut our goal of promoting hunting and fishing.
I urge the defeat of the amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.