|4:09 PM EDT||
Rob Bishop, R-UT 1st
Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I appreciate very kindly the gentleman from Virginia and his explanation of this particular provision that's in the bill. Unfortunately, it's not quite that way. Your recommendation of this is that in June the Secretary asked for our input as to wilderness, which is indeed exactly what he should do if he wants to obey the law. That is the proper course. Only Congress has the ability to designate wilderness areas.
You said that the provision that's in the bill would foreclose that process. In fact, you're arguing the exact opposite. This provision in the bill does not allow the Secretary to go around that process but insists that he does come and work with Congress to do any kind of land designation as it is written in the law.
Secretary Salazar and Deputy Secretary Hayes and BLM Director Abbey have all assured us that they have no plans to implement this ill-advised policy they established just before Christmas, a Secretarial order that usurped congressional authority and congressional responsibility. I'm going to take them at their word. Unfortunately, though, the order has never been withdrawn officially. It has been superseded.
The Solicitor General's opinion to clarify the legal status of that superseding of the opinion has been promised us. It was promised to the chairman, promised to the chairman of the authorizing committee. Yesterday at a hearing we asked where that was, and we were told once again, well, it's on its way. What was said at that hearing, obviously, is what they will do is nothing contrary to the provision that was placed in the CR. Therefore, if we are going to take their word for it--in the old
Reaganesque form, ``Trust, but verify''--continue this language in here and make sure that what they claim they will do will be done and there is no legal way of getting around it.
Now, I say that legal process for a purpose. Even if I trust the word of the Secretary--and I do--if this provision is in some way legally in doubt--now, once again, until the Solicitor General's opinion is clear with us, it is in doubt--in a litigation-prone society like we have, any kind of radical activist may ask a renegade judge for political purposes to contravene what the policy states it's supposed to be. That's why I support Congresswoman Lummis' inclusion of this language in
here. It would oppose any kind of roundabout process of going around Congress and allowing the administration to go around NEPA and around FLPMA, which is actually what the original order did.
It is not that we don't have confidence in this process; it's simply that we want to make sure it is very clean. And if, indeed, we all agree and believe what the Secretary is saying, then this language in here has no impact whatsoever. It should be accepted by all of us. If, though, you want to try to have some kind of dangling aspect out there so that somebody can sue someone [Page: H5619]
somewhere and maybe change the entire process, then create doubt and actually
withdraw language that was in the CR that was approved by the House and the Senate and signed by the President.
What we're asking for is consistency so that what the gentleman from Virginia said will indeed happen, that if wilderness is designated, it will be done by Congress--it is our legal responsibility to do it--and that no one can do these evaluations, which are legal under FLPMA, with only one criterion. That, once again, was admitted by Director Abbey in our committee that that is not the way the law is written, and indeed if you do that, that is abrogation of the law.
Now, once again, you have a process here. If you leave the language in there, it's no harm, no foul. It is consistent with the law, and it is consistent with what the Department of the Interior said their policy will be. You take this language out, and all of a sudden you have created a doubt. Find somebody who has a good attorney, and all of a sudden that doubt creates a major problem for the Department of the Interior, and especially for us in Congress.
I yield back the balance of my time.