National Policy Updates

The Senate and House were in session for most of September.

Boundary Waters Legislation Advances

The House Natural Resources Committee passed the bipartisan Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 5598) with a 19-16 vote. This is the farthest the bill has made it through Congress.

H.R. 5598 was introduced by Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Francis Rooney (R-FL) and would permanently protect 234,328 acres of public lands and waters upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed in northeastern Minnesota from copper and nickel mining.

The Boundary Waters is an incomparable landscape that deserves every protection we can afford it so that hunters, anglers and other outdoor users can continue to enjoy the cold, clean water, abundant wildlife and robust ecosystems that define this special place. Join us in asking your representative to pass the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act on the House floor. 

Pendley’s Nomination Withdrawn

Since the fall of 2019, the Bureau of Land Management has been under the delegated authority of William Perry Pendley, one of the most vociferous opponents of the country’s public lands and a firm adherent of the sell-off movement. Earlier this summer, the Trump administration announced its intent to nominate William Perry Pendley to officially lead the agency, which oversees over 245 million acres of public lands and waters in the United States – the largest of all the land management agencies. On Sept. 8th, however, the administration officially withdrew Pendley’s nomination, responding to opposition from groups like BHA and acknowledging his flawed track record and inability to conserve our public lands and waters.

Pendley is an attorney with a long and established track record of supporting the sale of millions of acres of U.S. public lands and waters. Until 2018 he was president of the conservative law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation and has authored books including Warriors for the West: Fighting Bureaucrats, Radical Groups, and Liberal Judges on America's Frontier and War on the West: Government Tyranny on America's Great Frontier. In 2016 he wrote a National Review column calling on the federal government to sell Western public lands. 

On September 25, a federal judge ruled that Pendley has been serving unlawfully in his role as acting director and cannot continue to lead at the BLM. While the administration has removed Pendley from that post following the ruling, he remains at the BLM and continues to exert influence over policy decisions. Join BHA in asking your senators and representatives to call for the swift removal of Pendley!

Forest Service Moves to Open Alaska Roadless Area

The U.S. Forest Service released its final environmental impact statement for the Tongass National Forest on Sept. 24, advancing efforts to repeal roadless protections in the United States’ largest national forest and the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. 

 In 2018, the Trump administration formally embarked upon a rulemaking process to develop an Alaska-specific version of the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which currently guides management of 58.5 million acres of backcountry national forests. Dismissing an overwhelming number of comments from hunters, anglers and Alaskans urging the Forest Service to maintain roadless protections, the administration caved to pressure from development interests, and roadless areas in the Tongass are now poised to be opened to projects including industrial clear-cutting of old-growth forest.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other partners worked to advance a balanced conservation alternative during the rule-making process that would have supported limited community infrastructure development while including new roadless protections for the Tongass 77, forest lands and waters critical to salmon production and other wildlife species.

The 9.3 million acres of Tongass National Forest inventoried roadless areas comprises habitat for a unique diversity of sought-after game species, including mountain goats, black-tailed deer and both brown and black bears. The Tongass also encompasses thousands of miles of salmon-rich waterways, legendary among anglers and fundamental to the state’s commercial salmon industry. These valuable resources have been upheld by the Roadless Rule, a collaborative management approach that was adopted following one of the most extensive public engagement campaigns in the history of federal rulemaking.

The Trump administration is expected to release the final rule in late October.

Latest with Bristol Bay

As you may remember from last month, the Army Corps of Engineers requested that the proposed Pebble mine project be reevaluated and sent back to the drawing board to address environmental concerns highlighted in the final environmental impact statement. Since then, more damning information was leaked to the press, including private video recordings between Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) and Northern Dynasty Mineral executives. These recordings are being called the Pebble Tapes.

The recordings contradicted PLP CEO Tom Collier’s testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that led lawmakers and the public to believe that the proposed copper and gold mine plan would be a 20-year, small mine project. The tapes revealed PLP’s plans to expand the mine to 180-year extraction project. Because of these misleading conversations, Tom Collier sent his resignation to PLP on Sept. 23.

BHA will continue to fight to protect Bristol Bay, the largest remaining wild salmon fishery in the world. Join us in urging our lawmakers, the president and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to conserve Bristol Bay and veto a permit for the proposed Pebble mine project.

Public Lands Legislation Up for Consideration

On Sept. 16, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on public lands and forestry legislation. The legislation includes the following BHA priorities: Sens. Martha McSally's (R-AZ) and Angus King’s (I-ME) Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act, Sen. Wyden’s (D-OR) Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S. 2828), Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-MT) Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (S. 1765), and Sens. Tom Udall's (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act (S. 3670).

BHA is continuing to encourage the committee to consider additional legislation that was requested by our chapters. We are working to include these bills in an end of the year or early next Congress reconciliation package.