Hearing on Parks Bills Less Than Idyllic

The Abyss geothermal pool is seen October 8, 2012 in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Yellowstone protects 10,000 or so geysers, mudpots, steamvents, and hot springs.Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park. It was established in 1872. Yellowstone extends through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park's name is derived from the Yellowstone River, which runs through the park. A
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Nov. 21, 2013, 10:38 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of the House Nat­ur­al Re­sources Sub­com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Lands and En­vir­on­ment­al Reg­u­la­tion set their sights squarely on a take­down of the ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing a hear­ing Thursday to con­sider a series of bills re­spond­ing to the clos­ure of pub­lic lands dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Meas­ures to give states more au­thor­ity over pub­lic lands were the main fo­cus of the hear­ing, but the dis­cus­sion de­volved at times in­to at­tacks on Pres­id­ent Obama.

“I see this gov­ern­ment today as King George and his lords around him,” said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the au­thor of a bill to give states a great­er role in man­aging fed­er­al lands. “The Amer­ic­an people have be­come the serfs, be­cause we have to re­spond to the agen­cies. The pres­id­ent of the United States be­lieves he’s a mon­arch. Shame on Amer­ica.”

Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Rob Bish­op, R-Utah, star­ted the bar­rage with a cri­tique of big gov­ern­ment. “Large, cent­ral­ized, bur­eau­crat­ic en­tit­ies don’t work; they don’t move us for­ward,” Bish­op said in his open­ing state­ment.

There were some mo­ments of to­geth­er­ness. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., spon­sor of a meas­ure dir­ect­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to re­im­burse states for costs in­curred in re­open­ing na­tion­al parks dur­ing the shut­down, ap­plauded Demo­crats for sup­port­ing his le­gis­la­tion and in­dic­ated a will­ing­ness to reach across the aisle to strengthen bi­par­tis­an con­sensus on the is­sue.

“I want to thank the 26 bi­par­tis­an co­spon­sors on this le­gis­la­tion, many whom are rep­res­ent­ing states that stepped up to the chal­lenge, as Utah did, to open up our parks while the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fused ac­cess dur­ing the par­tial lapse in ap­pro­pri­ations,” he said. “It’s rare we see much bi­par­tis­an agree­ment in this town, [and] it is nice to see sev­en Demo­crats join­ing already as co­spon­sors on this bill on the House side.”

Sub­com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Rep. Raul Gri­jalva, D-Ar­iz., dis­missed the GOP at­tempts at out­reach. “I’m glad to see the ma­jor­ity ac­know­ledge that our na­tion­al parks and wild­life refuges are eco­nom­ic en­gines in many of our rur­al eco­nom­ies,” he said. “But like so many of the ma­jor­ity’s bills con­sidered by this com­mit­tee, the le­gis­la­tion we will dis­cuss today takes shared val­ues and twists them in­to di­vis­ive, par­tis­an ex­tremes.”

Gri­jalva went on to say, “We should view this hear­ing like people view Dooms­day-prep­pers — for its en­ter­tain­ment value only.”

The hear­ing comes on the heels of a ma­jor push this week by House Re­pub­lic­ans for more states’ rights in en­ergy de­vel­op­ment. The House on Thursday passed le­gis­la­tion that would speed fed­er­al re­view of cross-bor­der oil and gas pipelines, while on Wed­nes­day the cham­ber passed a bill to ex­pand oil and nat­ur­al gas drilling on pub­lic lands and to lim­it fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion of hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing.

The Sen­ate is not ex­pec­ted to pass the three bills, and the White House has threatened to veto all of them.

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