A bill introduced by Utah Republican Bob Bishop, would give congress the sole power to create new national parks and monuments. Considering that since 2010, when the tea party first took control of the House, congress has failed to create or protect a single new acre of land, the bill would all but ensure that no new parks are created.
The GOP Congress is working hard to protect the interests of the fossil industry.
HR 1459, titled “The Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of Monuments and Parks’ is not as innocent as the bill’s name would suggest. In fact, it has been nicknamed the no new parks bill, due to the likelihood that it would stop the creation of new national parks and monuments.
Besides overturning a 108 year old law that allows the president to designate national monuments and protect public lands, HR 1459 lays out absurd procedures which would have to be followed, before any new public lands could be protected.
The bill requires that an environmental impact assessment be carried out, to study the environmental impact of protecting the land. Also, under the no new parks bill, before a new park or monument can be created, a feasibility study must be done.
HR 1459 would also make it so that the designation of a ‘national monument’ for sites which have less than 5,000 acres, would expire after 3 years. This means that every three years, all of these procedures would need to be repeated, in order for the site to keep its status as a national monument.
HR 1459 would increase the cost of creating a new park or monument.
Aside from the added paperwork, the CBO says that the bill would increase the cost of creating national parks and monuments by $3 million, adding at least $300,000 to the cost of each new site.
The intent of HR 1459 is clear. The GOP congress wants to make the creation of new parks and monuments so difficult, costly and time consuming that the final effect will be to stop their creation entirely.
As a bonus, HR 1459 would give more powers to the GOP congress, while taking away the long standing authority of the president.
The GOP Congress doesn’t care what the voters want.
Since 2009, the GOP congress has fought against every piece of legislation that would protect the environment or conserve US land. Budget cuts forced through by republicans have already had a serious impact on national parks and conservation efforts.
The US tourism industry, which relies on national parks, monuments and forests, to attract visitors from all over the world, is being gutted for the sake of fossil fuel industry. The GOP shut down of the government led to a loss of at least 8 million visitors to national parks and cost communities that depend on the tourism industry more than $400 million in lost revenue. But HR 1459 would have an even greater impact on tourism, as the changes would be a permanent part of our national policy.
Republican Steve Stockman summed up the views of the GOP and Tea Party when he said
“The best thing about the earth is if you poke holes in it, gas and oil come out.”
While GOP and Tea Party lawmakers may agree with Stockman’s statement, the vast majority of US voters do not. A November 2013 survey, from the Center for American Progress, shows that 3 out of 4 voters don’t think the government is doing enough to protect national parks or public lands.
Similar results were found in a second survey, which was jointly commissioned by both parties. In that survey, conducted by Colorado College, 7 out of 10 people said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who will protect the environment and care for public land.
The house is scheduled to vote on HR 1459 during the week of March 24, 2014.