With a return from August recess, the House and Senate spent much of the month negotiating the previously passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act. If signed into law, both bills would have significant benefits to conservation and public lands, waters and wildlife. Additionally, in the spirit of Public Lands Month, BHA members flexed their muscles by sending over 43,000 emails to their members of Congress in support of our priority issues.
Build Back Better Act
Throughout September, the House of Representatives held committee hearings to construct this $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. This legislation, though not subject to the filibuster, has been hotly negotiated in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The portion of the bill drafted by the House Natural Resources Committee contains multiple provisions supported by BHA. Highlights include the following:
- Hardrock mining modernization that would create a new royalties and fees for hardrock mining, which currently is the only extractive industry on public lands that does not pay a royalty
- $2.5 billion appropriated for the Abandoned Mine Land Cleanup Fund
- A repeal of the oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and buying back existing leases
- A mineral withdrawal to protect roughly 1 million acres around Grand Canyon
- $10 million appropriated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the conservation of wildlife corridors
- $100 million appropriated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for grassland restoration and protection
Negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure package have been pursued alongside the budget reconciliation process. This could face roadblocks, as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), both key votes, have repeatedly voiced concerns with the legislation and an unwillingness to agree to trillions in new spending.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
After the Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure package in early August, the House of Representatives took up consideration of the bill which includes several conservation measures supported by BHA. The House adopted a rule earlier in September along with the budget resolution that guaranteed a vote for this legislation the final week of September. Although that vote has been scheduled for Sept. 30, House leadership could delay it at anytime and will likely do so. Without the support of progressive members of the House Democratic caucus, the bill cannot pass. Progressive Democratic House members have threatened to vote against the bipartisan bill without prior action on the Build Back Better Act, which has stalled due to Sens. Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema (D-AZ).
Public Lands Month Policy Highlights
As BHA celebrated public lands month this September, we highlighted specific policy proposals each week with the goal of driving action on each of them. The response from our membership was fantastic. The first two weeks of the month highlighted important legislative funding efforts like the North American Grasslands Conservation Act and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. The latter two weeks focused on long-term legislative fights to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Great news for this world-class salmon fishery came this month with an announcement from the EPA that it would begin the process of using authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay from development such as the proposed Pebble Mine. For over a decade sportsmen and women have opposed this project that would fundamentally threaten the unparalleled, wildlife-rich region.
This announcement from the Biden administration followed action taken by the Trump administration to slow the Pebble Mine proposal. The additional action was critical, as Pebble Partnership has appealed the Trump administration’s decision.
Read BHA’s press release here.
Defense Spending Bill Amendments
This month the House passed its version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. The annual defense spending bill will be important to watch, as it is often a vehicle for other legislative riders. Two amendments were included that BHA has been tracking. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) got an amendment attached that contains the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, which passed in February of this year. As a reminder, this this legislation would designate nearly 1.5 million acres of wilderness and other designations for public lands across the country. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) got an amendment attached that contains the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act and Grand Canyon Protection Act. As the NDAA bill is taken up by the Senate later this year and negotiated between the two chambers, it could be difficult for these amendments to remain attached.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Headquarters
The previous administration, despite failing to successfully nominate a BLM director for its entire 4-year term, made the decision to relocate BLM's headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, with mixed reactions. Of the 328 positions reassigned to Grand Junction or state offices in the West, only 41 BLM employees chose to move. A total of 287 employees, or 87 percent of those reassigned out of Washington, left the bureau rather than move. During September, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the decision to move BLM's headquarters and key leadership positions back to Washington, D.C., while retaining the Grand Junction office as a new Western hub for key leadership positions and field programs. While BHA has been largely neutral on the headquarters location, we do see the value of keeping key leadership roles in Grand Junction close to the resources BLM oversees while having the BLM director and other senior roles in D.C. where they can collaborate with Congress, the White House and their peers at other management agencies. The BLM is responsible for administering 245 million acres of our public lands and waters.
Laura Daniel-Davis Nomination
On Sept. 21, a hearing was held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the nomination of Laura Daniel-Davis as interior assistant secretary – lands and minerals. With experience serving in the Interior Department under two previous administrations and as chief of policy and advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation, she is remarkably qualified for this role. BHA continues to support her nomination and hopes to see her move forward as quickly as possible.
Read BHA’s press release here.