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June 27, 2016

Dan Ashe’s Manifesto: It’s a Make-or-Break Moment in Conservation History

In his stirring remarks to conservation leaders and journalists attending our 14th annual Western Media Summit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director challenges us to stay optimistic, fix dysfunction, and keep fish and wildlife issues relevant

It’s an honor for me to speak to you at what is truly a make-or-break moment in conservation history.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

I’m going to cover three topics: First, and briefly, the nature of the challenge we face today, and will increasingly face tomorrow. Second, the growing dysfunction in the conservation community. Third, a specific part, or symptom, of that dysfunction – the growing irrelevancy of conservation.

Many of you have heard me say this: Our challenge in conserving wild creatures is human ecology. The Earth’s population continues to grow. Today, we share the planet with 7.3 billion others of our species. By mid-century, we will be approaching 10 billion. And it’s not just our growing numbers, but our expanding affluence.

The world’s population is growing to be more like us, and increasing its demands for access to things like electricity, education, transportation, and health care. These people will require more fuel, more fiber, and more food, and we will all consume more of the planet’s ecological space just to keep pace. Though we wish it were not so, that means less and less for the rest of what we collectively call biodiversity.

This exploding demand for resources is altering the biochemical processes of the planet. 2014 was the warmest year on record – until 2015. This year could eclipse even that record.

The evidence is all around us:

  • Scorching temperatures and rampant wildfires are bedeviling the southwest.
  • Record high temperatures were recorded in the Arctic in January and February—who would ever have imagined the now routine need to truck in snow for the Iditarod?
  • More than 90 percent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has experienced bleaching in the past several months.
  • PLUS: The great prairies of North America are in crisis. Asian carp assault the Great Lakes. Burmese pythons strangle the Everglades. Elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife are decimated by a global epidemic in trafficking. State and federal refuges in California (anchors of the Pacific Flyway) are starved of water. Mule deer are disappearing from large expanses of the West. Every native trout species is imperiled. Grassland birds are declining precipitously. And on, and on.

And yet, I don’t know if we’ve ever been less prepared, as a conservation community, to cope with these enormous challenges.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

And that’s a good transition to my second point. As a community, we have a significant and growing dysfunction. We seem to increasingly view ourselves as an island in a rising sea of change, seeking to armor ourselves against the momentous tides of transformation around us. We are reflexive, defensive, and increasingly angry at the growing proportion of the population that just doesn’t get it.

Easy things seem hard. Hard things seem impossible.

Case-in-point is what we call “The Sportsmen’s Bill”. And this is not a criticism of the Congressional sponsors, because they are responding to us. We are the problem. This is our dysfunction. Instead of marshalling our resources and asking for Congress’s support to confront these challenges, we ask Congress to address the import of 41 polar bear trophies, killed in 2008, all in the name of sportsmen.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund expires. But in the name of sportsmen, we ask Congress to exempt lead bullets from regulations in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), well-knowing that lead bullets are not being regulated by TSCA.

It’s a failure of imagination, vision, and unity that will continue to cost us, if we don’t address it.

Across the West, the very concept of public lands are under sustained assault from federal, state and local politicians and the special interests who fund them. The illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year was just the latest escalation in an ongoing effort by armed extremists to intimidate public employees and keep them from doing their jobs.

I’ll pause here to thank the TRCP and its grassroots advocates. You stood with us during the occupation, and continue to advocate forcefully against the transfer and sale of public lands. We are enormously grateful for the support.

We need all the help we can get, because these ideologues are waging a relentless campaign to undermine the legitimacy of public lands, public resources, and wildlife held in trust for the public. They want the federal government to divest hundreds of millions of acres of public land—not for sportsmen or women—but for economic development, private use, and corporate profit.

They’re doing what we used to do so well. They’re playing the long game, and they are succeeding in their larger aim—to undercut public support and confuse the issue for voters.

The Malheur occupation didn’t occur in a vacuum. It happened because there are people, many of whom occupy positions of power and influence across the West, who share their values and beliefs, even if they recoil at their methods—for now.

Sadly, the public doesn’t seem to realize the stakes.

We’re heading into the heat of a pivotal election season, one that will likely determine the fate of those public lands and North America’s wildlife for years to come. We will need more strong voices during this election and beyond, as we see this cancer growing in Congress and state legislatures across the nation.

Which brings me to my third point. Conservation is increasingly irrelevant in today’s changing American society.

Relevance is the noun form of the adjective relevant, which means important to the matter at hand. To us—anglers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts—and our predecessors, conservation has long been relevant, because it sustains the things we care about. The matters at hand. But fewer and fewer people are fishing, hunting, and spending time outdoors. More than eight in ten Americans live in urban and suburban environments. Urbanization is accelerating, and the nation will soon be made up of a majority of minorities.

You, me, our organizations, others in our profession and our community, we do not look like America. We do not think like America. How then can we even understand, let alone achieve, what is important to the matters at hand in a changing America?

This is a crisis for conservation. We simply must address it. We must change and change rapidly. And yes, change comes hard. But, as General Eric Shinsheki teaches us, If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. We are seeing the early stages of the irrelevance of conservation.

So, we’re facing big challenges. Here’s what I believe we need to do:

  • We have to break out of the disciplinary silos that we have built and that have served us so well in the 20th century. We can’t do 21st century conservation if we see the world divided into fish, wildlife, range, and forestry. We have to unite these great disciplines and see conservation in a larger context, and design conservation on a larger scale.
  • We have to have zero tolerance for politicians, at all levels of government, who support divestiture of public lands. No candidate should be able to call themselves a sportsman unless they defend, loudly and at every turn, the benefits and importance of public land ownership and professional stewardship. It’s an election year, and we need a true Sportsmen’s Platform. Not platitudes about rights to hunt and fish. We need sportsmen to make it a priority to support—in every sense of the word—candidates who embody this platform. And to oppose those who do not. We need to support politicians who will stand up for clean air and water and protection of habitat, and stand behind the professional public servants—local, tribal, state, and federal—who dedicate their lives to conserving wild places and wild creatures.
  • We need a professional ethic that unites us as a community. President Ronald Reagan united his political party in the 1980s, and coined what he called the “Eleventh Amendment”: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. We need our own Eleventh Amendment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow conservationist. Sure, we may disagree from time to time, but these need to be professional, courteous, and respectful differences of opinion. Those in our community who sow seeds of anger and adversity must meet with what Aldo Leopold called social disapproval. If we let these people divide us, and play us off each other, then we, and the resource we love, will lose. How can we expect the faith and confidence of the public if we do not reflect faith and confidence in one another?
  • We must diversify our organizations, our profession, and our community. This must be a collective priority. We need to set measureable goals and attain them. We can’t just welcome families and children from urban and diverse communities to the outdoors – we have to actively seek them out and make it easier for them to experience their natural heritage. We have to recruit them at a young age and expose them to careers in conservation.

The reality is that right now, we look in all the same places, we do what we have always done—and we settle for what we have always gotten.

This has to change.

It’s an issue of leadership, and it’s time for leaders to step up and lead. There’s a new generation of potential conservationists out there. They’re in cities. They’re using iPhones and Androids. They don’t hunt or fish. They’ve never spent a night outdoors. Their skin is red or brown. English may be their second language. They are the voters and leaders of tomorrow. If we lose them, there will be no tomorrow for conservation.

We have to find them. We have to inspire and recruit them. They will become the best-and-brightest. They will make conservation relevant. We have to continue to expand our public lands and open them to new opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds to enjoy with their families.

We’ve made this a central priority in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, creating urban wildlife conservation partnerships in more than two dozen cities across the nation. These include cities where we have a land base—like Philadelphia, San Diego, Albuquerque, and Denver—as well as those where we don’t—like Atlanta, Houston, and Baltimore. Through these partnerships, we’re working with community leaders to help thousands of kids and families develop a personal connection with nature.

We’re partnering with organizations like the League of United Latino American Citizens and historically black fraternities and sororities, like Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, to mentor young people and help them explore STEM careers.

Wherever and whenever we can, we’re expanding hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation programs on our refuges. In fact, I’m pleased to announce that we’re proposing to expand hunting and fishing opportunities on 13 national wildlife refuges across the United States. This will include sportfishing and hunting for migratory birds, upland game, and big game. Right here in Colorado, we’re proposing elk hunting for the first time in designated areas of Baca National Wildlife Refuge, as well as in expanded areas of Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

Expanded relevance. Less dysfunction. More ambition and creativity. Those are the keys to success, and we have to start today. Most of all, we have to act together and focus on the core values that unite us, not the comparatively trivial matters that tend to divide us as a conservation community.

None of this is easy. It requires us to leave our comfort zones and take risks. But nothing great was ever accomplished by playing it safe, or accepting the status quo.

Thank you for listening.

5 Responses to “Dan Ashe’s Manifesto: It’s a Make-or-Break Moment in Conservation History”

  1. Grizzly Girl

    I’m happy to see Dan Ashe speaking out against public lands divesture and the Sportsmen Act. Why doesn’t he see, though, that visits to national parks are at an all time high. People are hunting – just not with guns. This is the 21st century and people have turned to cameras and social media to share their experiences with our public lands and our wildlife. There is no need to expand hunting. There is a need to recognize and embrace the love of public lands and native wildlife taking hold of our young people.

  2. LISA PICKLE

    Mr. Ashe makes a lot of good points here. We are most definitely in a Conservation Crisis and the “Status quo” desperately needs to change!
    Starting with the Wildlife Departments that need to stop giving in to the special interest groups and get out of the cozy bed they have shared for far too long with the Ranchers, Trophy Hunters and apparently many others!
    Public lands should NEVER be opened up to the special interest groups for their PRIVATE gains! And even the idea of allowing hunting in Wild Life “Refuges” is completely ABSURD and contradictory!! Please define REFUGE for me???
    It must no longer mean what my dictionary states!
    “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble”
    Exactly WHO are we keeping safe and protecting???! Please do tell…………….
    YES! This is an absolutely critical time in conservation and we must stand up for what we believe in NOW before it is too late and we lose any more of our iconic wild life and natural treasure forever!

  3. This is the most sense I’ve ever heard Dan Ashe speak: he is, for once, right in so many ways.

    Then, of course, two answering posts exemplify what he is warning against. Gotta love America!

  4. It does not make sense to decry irrelevancy to a group of hunters: a group the declines in number with every year that passes. Hunting itself is becoming irrelevant. Most people who recreate outdoors and who love wildlife don’t hunt. Most people are appalled by this effort to put hunting everywhere like Wildlife Refuges for pity’s sake, Animals will learn to stay out of sight making it less likely that wildlife viewers will get a glimpse and thus reducing the inspiration to conserve them. C’mon Dan Ashe, stop catering to the minority who just want to kill wildlife.

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Kristyn Brady

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June 23, 2016

Visit the Online Hub for Western Pushback Against Land Transfer

It’s a one-stop shop for statements of opposition from local leaders in nine Western states and the seminal petition against public land transfer, with more than 28,000 signatures 

Sportsmensaccess.org, the online hub where hunters and anglers can take action against the transfer or sale of federal public lands to individual states, has been updated with new resources on the would-be impacts of transfer and highlights meaningful opposition to this idea that has sprung up across nine Western states.

The homepage now leads off with the Sportsmen’s Access petition and a new video, narrated by hunting TV host and public lands evangelist Randy Newberg, which scrubs out the myths about proposed state management of public lands. “It doesn’t matter how many promises are made, the financial realities would force states to sell off our public lands,” says Newberg. “There goes access to hunting, fishing, camping, and our way of life.”

Image courtesy of Sage Lion Media.

Sportsmen, Westerners, and the media will also find the real facts on what state takeover of public lands would look like in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. Each state page contains a link to download a fact sheet, plus an exhaustive list of public statements of opposition from elected officials, local leaders, and the 115 organizations that stand with sportsmen. An infographic about the threats to multiple use of our public lands, a mandate that keeps fish and wildlife on the landscape, is also available for download.

This week, we will deliver the Sportsmen’s Access petition, which recently broke 28,000 signatures, to surrogates representing presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton at a media event in Fort Collins, Colo. As part of a forum with journalists covering hunting, fishing, and the environment, Donald Trump, Jr., will talk about his father’s conservation priorities, and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) will address Clinton’s policy goals for issues important to sportsmen.

Delivering the Sportsmen’s Access petition to Donald Trump, Jr. at the TRCP’s Western Media Summit.

“America’s hunters and anglers need more champions in Washington and statehouses across the country—lawmakers who understand that access to public lands where fish and wildlife can thrive is fundamental to our sports, our heritage, and the outdoor recreation businesses that create jobs and prosperity in local communities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “But, beyond that, we need our elected officials to recognize that sportsmen see state takeover of our national public lands, and our inevitable loss of access, as a cold-dead-hands issue. This stack of pages containing the names of 28,000 Americans opposed to this bad idea should serve as a visual reminder.”

A diverse coalition of sportsmen’s groups and outdoor brands have rallied against the transfer or sale of public lands since January 2015, and public outcry has grown since the takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon earlier this year. State legislatures in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming rejected land grab proposals in 2016, yet the House Natural Resources Committee, in a move that was out of touch with Westerners and sportsmen, voted last week to advance two bills on land transfer to the House floor.

To learn more about the latest movement on these and other bills that threaten access for hunting and fishing, visit sportsmensaccess.org.

Kristyn Brady

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Six Things We Learned From a Top Pollster About Voter Attitudes Toward Conservation, Public Lands, and Clean Water

Spoilers: Conservation is a primary concern for many Westerners, but they still don’t believe the states will sell off treasured public lands

You can poll voters on their perceptions of pretty much anything and there will typically be some partisan distinction. As a top pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, Lori Weigel can recall uncovering opposing views on French fries that seemingly ran along party lines. (More disturbing still, she and her colleagues identified a segment of the voting population who did not know that potato is the main ingredient in fries.) But, here in Colorado, where the TRCP is hosting our 14th annual Western Media Summit, opposition to water diversions is completely bipartisan.

Image courtesy of Jenni Henry.

That’s a pretty remarkable indication of the passion for healthy fish and wildlife populations in a swing state, and Weigel has a lot more data where that came from. Here are six things we learned about voter attitudes toward conservation, public lands, and clean water in the Western states:

  1. Unsurprisingly, the majority of voters feel the country is off on the wrong track. They want change. Public trust in government is at a near-all-time low, and confidence in other institutions—like banks, churches, police, and the media—have declined remarkably, too. Plus, there is an unprecedented amount of negativity about both presidential candidates.
  2. There is a silver lining: Three-quarters of Western voters say that conservation is an important issue in deciding whether or not to support a candidate up for election, and three in ten regard conservation as a “primary factor” in their decision, even among issues like the economy and healthcare. (Weigel says drought actually eclipsed the economy as a primary issue in recent polls.) Those numbers hold for Colorado and Nevada, important swing states in the upcoming presidential election, and Arizona, an emerging swing state. Conservation issues are deemed important by many of the critical “swing” groups, including sportsmen, Latinos, millennials, moderates, and suburban women.
  3. However, the majority of Westerners believe most candidates for president and Congress do not understand conservation issues well.
  4. Voters themselves don’t understand that oil and gas drilling can take place on public lands, even though energy development is part of the multiple-use mandate for national public lands. It’s actually what makes them quite different than state lands, which do not have a mandate to balance use between energy, grazing, timber, and outdoor recreation. Beyond this lack of understanding, Americans generally want to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, but in ways that are safe and do not make an impact close to home.
  5. But public lands are beloved—93 percent of voters in the Interior West say they visit national public lands. The transfer or sale of national public lands to Western states is more likely to be opposed in the West, too.
  6. But transfer is still a relatively new issue for voters, perhaps higher profile since the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and even sportsmen in the West have a hard time believing that the states would sell off the public lands we treasure. Despite the state track record of offloading lands to pay down deficits, voters are more wary of higher taxes than of losing these lands forever.

It seems to me that we have an opportunity to mobilize even more advocates for our public lands if we can frame state takeover as a conservation issue. Let’s harness the enthusiasm for our public lands, waters, and habitat, and get all those visitors to Western national parks and forests and BLM lands to stand up against handing them over to the states. It’s time to start believing that this could actually happen. The threat is real—two bills that would effectively transfer management of national forests to individual states have already been passed by the House Natural Resources Committee, and they head to the floor of the chamber for a full House vote.

Keeping our public lands in public hands is a conservation issue. It should factor into our voting decisions and motivate our actions. We should be willing to work for the change we want, not just hand off the challenges we have.

But don’t wait until the election to tell your decision-makers where you stand on America’s public lands. 

Chris Macaluso

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June 21, 2016

A Taste of the Nine-Day Gulf Red Snapper Season

With the abundance of fish these anglers experienced, why can’t we fix the access issues?

It’s the best of times and the worst of times for red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

My apologies to Charles Dickens.

It is the best of times because there are so many snapper out there. Oil rigs, reefs, sunken shrimp boats, lost shipping containers, pipeline stems, concrete rubble, natural drop-offs, humps, and buoy chains all hold fish. As long as a structure is in 50 feet of water, it’s going to be covered in snapper, and this holds true across most of the Gulf.

From my favorite port of Grand Isle, La., the options for catching snapper start at a set of oil rigs named the Grand Isle 20 Block, which is clearly visible from the beach. If, by some strange chance, the snapper on the 20 Block aren’t interested, a quick three-mile jump to the 30 block and then the West Delta 70 block gives snapper anglers additional options in waters up to 140 feet deep.

Image courtesy of Chris Macaluso.

The fishing can be remarkable. Throw a handful of chum over one of these wrecks or reefs and prepare for action. Anglers can  slow-crank a snapper up from 50 feet and sometimes the entire school will follow, quickly turning the green water red. Without fail fish on the surface will aggressively attack anything that moves or looks like food.

Short of catching speckled trout all day on topwater baits or watching a billfish tail walk, it’s as good as fishing gets.

Anglers should be celebrating this abundance.

Instead, they find themselves embroiled in the most contentious battle in federal fisheries management, a chaotic approach often driven by lawsuits against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and shouting matches among user groups.

Abundance usually means more access to the resource, or at least consistent regulations, in any other fish and game management scenario. In red snapper management, abundance combined with error-prone data collection on harvest levels and stock sizes has translated to less access for sportsmen.

More fish means they are easier to catch, but the larger population also brings more regulations. Bigger fish means the poundage-based quota required by federal law is being reached much quicker. Inability to accurately account for the harvest of bigger fish from a larger population has led to, in part, this year’s nine-day red snapper season in the Gulf’s federal waters. Ironically, 10 years ago, when the snapper population was estimated to be much smaller, the federal-water snapper season was 194 days.

Image courtesy of Chris Macaluso.

Gulf states have stepped in to provide more consistent access to waters they control, up to nine miles from shore. But, for most Gulf ports, the 50-foot depths generally needed to find red snapper lie beyond that nine-mile boundary. State officials are also working with anglers to improve access and data collection. But, as long as current federal law and management apply, 95 percent of the Gulf will remain off-limits to recreational snapper harvest for at least 11 months of the year.

TRCP and its sportfishing partners—the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, and others—have been working with policy-makers to find a better way.

The constant battle at the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and the political debate over snapper management often overshadow how much fun it is to catch these fish. It dampens the appetite of anglers who love snapper, especially when it’s cooked over a charcoal pit, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.

Image courtesy of Chris Macaluso.

This year, rough seas and thunderstorms prevented most anglers from getting to snapper waters during the June 1-9 federal season. NOAA gave anglers two additional days to compensate for Tropical Storm Colin, but the other lost days were victims of the fickle derby system that federal management has created.

Keep America Fishing leaders Gary Jennings and Glenn Hughes joined me and Captain Frank Dreher on Grand Isle on June 8 for two days of snapper fishing. The trip was set up to give us a chance to forget about snapper politics and focus on fishing. The plan was to take Dreher’s 24-foot bay boat out of Grand Isle on day one then slide west to Terrebonne Parish on day two for a ride on a 33 Contender with Tony Fontenot and the crew from Castin’ Cajun, a popular regional TV show.

Flat seas and sharks greeted us early June 8. A couple of short stops at rigs in 50 to 70 feet of water showed schools of snapper on the sounder, but blacktips and jack crevalle were quicker to the baits. At our third spot, we found a school of 5- to 10-pound snapper and the action was non-stop for more than an hour while the placid surface was quickly slopped up by a sneaky 10- to 15-knot northeast wind.

A 3-foot chop turned a half-hour joy ride on the way out into a 90-minute, spray-soaked pounding on the ride home. We quickly forgot about it that evening over grilled snapper filets and Abita Amber beer.

On day two, the seas were sloppier, but the 33-foot vessel cut down on the pounding and the soaking—a little. But the 20-mile ride out of Cocodrie to a wrecked boat in 55 feet of water was worth it: We enjoyed snapper fishing unparalleled by any I have experienced in more than three decades of venturing off Louisiana’s coast. The emerald-green waters were spotted with red all morning, as snapper schools ascended to the surface and ferociously attacked any bait.

Even before boat owner David Prevost positioned us over the wreck, I reeled in an 8-pound snapper that crushed a chunky, soft-plastic grub intended for an aggressive cobia cruising above the structure. Thirty or more snapper followed that first fish and soon multiple hook-ups marked the morning. More than once, I picked out a fish I wanted to catch, pitched my bait, and watched it eat. Fishing does not get better.

Our two days on the Gulf during the brief window provided by federal managers reinforced two things I already knew: Red snapper are abundant, and a federal system fraught with incessant political battles, insufficient data, and misguided management approaches keep anglers from that abundance.

There’s no reason to believe we can’t fix the access and enjoy the abundance.

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June 20, 2016

Glassing the Hill: June 20 – 24

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress.

The Senate and House are both in session this week. In about three weeks, lawmakers leave town for an extended 6-week recess that spans both party conventions in Cleveland (RNC) and Philadelphia (DNC).

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Last week saw the first House vote on public land transfers—and the bill passed through committee. in the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Don Young’s (R-Alaska) bill, “The State National Forest Management Act,” which would sell national forest land to states, passed with a 23-15 vote. Congressman Zinke (R-Mont.) was the only Republican member who opposed this legislation. You can find the vote record here.

“The Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act,” from Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) also passed on party lines. The legislation would transfer forest management authority to a state-appointed “Advisory Committee,” which does not require a person with professional experience in managing forests.

The bills aren’t law yet, and you can show lawmakers that you are opposed to transfer and sale of public land by signing the petition for sportsmen’s access.

The House and Senate Department of the Interior and environmental agencies spending bills include “poison pill riders.” The House “Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” passed in full committee on a party-line vote last week with riders that may interfere with the bill’s passage, including Rep. Simpson’s (R-Idaho) amendment to delay the BLM’s Planning 2.0 Rule, Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R-Nev.) provision that would halt the federal government’s collaborative work with states to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat, and a rider that would block the administration’s Clean Water Rule that defines the jurisdiction of wetlands.

The Senate version of “The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” also included language that would block the administration’s Clean Water Rule. The $32.034-billion Senate spending bill would cut funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by $50 million. The bill passed with a 16-14 vote.

On the Senate floor last week, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) held a 14-hour filibuster demanding gun-related amendments, fueled by the violent events in Orlando a little more than a week ago. The proposed amendments to the “The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” would prevent individuals on the terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms and expand background checks for gun purchases.

However, this is tying up Senators who need to crank out 12 individual appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year. Lawmakers only have three legislative weeks until they leave for a six-week recess, and the longer they work on other legislation, the more likely it is that a continuing resolution or an omnibus spending package will be considered before September 30. This typically last-minute process locks in spending levels from previous years and isn’t considered to be regular order.

The House is in a similar predicament, with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) continuing to push for floor time on his anti-discriminatory amendment.

On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on wildfire and forest management legislation. The bill, “The Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act,” is a discussion draft that aimed at addressing wildfire suppression cost and improving forest management. It would provide a budget cap adjustment for wildfire suppression should the funding exceed the 10-year average cost. However, the legislation does not address the U.S. Forest Service’s long-term priorities to reduce wildfire costs, such as forest rehabilitation efforts. The hearing will take place Thursday morning.

The BLM Director will discuss Planning 2.0, legislation that would give the public more say in local and landscape-scale planning, at a Senate hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze will testify at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, showing his support for the new rule. Planning 2.0 would have BLM better incorporate public feedback into their plans while the addressing energy and wildlife concerns in a timelier manner. Language offered by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) would delay the BLM’s Planning 2.0 Rule by 90-days has also been added in the House version of the U.S. Department of the Interior and environmental agencies spending bill. The amendment passed with a voice vote.

The House is expected to consider three additional bills this week: The Internal Revenue Service and related agencies spending bill that would cut the agency’s budget by $236 million; legislation that would replace “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act;” a bill that would give courts more authority on interpreting laws.

Also happening on Capitol Hill this week:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) role in the permitting process will be investigated in a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) justification for regulation will be discussed in a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing

The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Management program is up for debate in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

Legislation that addresses air quality standards is on the docket for a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unethical conduct occurring within the U.S. Department of the Interior will be examined in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing

Several water-related bills will be the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Ocean hearing

Service corps legislation will be examined in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

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