Congressional Western Caucus: Interior Department Critical to the West

Washington, D.C. (March 6, 2013) – On the eve of the Senate’s confirmation hearing, Members of the Congressional Western Caucus sent a letter to the President highlighting questions and concerns about Sally Jewell’s nomination for Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI). In the letter, caucus members emphasized the impact the DOI has on the West, and laid out the basic qualifications any Secretary of the Interior should possess.

The letter notes that, “the American West is rich with natural resources that Americans need to power their homes, fuel their cars, and feed their families. American industry needs access to develop and produce materials to build our homes and businesses, and provide everyday household items like our cars, phones, tablets and televisions. Yet production of these resources on federal lands lags well behind similar projects on private land. Beginning to clear away bureaucratic hurdles for renewable energy projects as your Administration has done is an encouraging sign, and we see no reason why the same commitment should not exist for the development of long languishing projects to develop oil and gas, coal, uranium, as well as critical minerals and timber.”

They also expanded upon more long term goals, such as modernizing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and expressed the desire to work together towards shared goals for the good of the nation.

Excerpts of the letter:

“At great expense to the DOI, the ESA is driven almost exclusively by lawsuits and settlements and not as a collaborative effort for conservation and species recovery.  But as we saw with the dunes sagebrush lizard in New Mexico and Texas, when the federal government teamed up with state governments and private stakeholders, the species survived alongside our jobs. ”

“An immediate gesture Mrs. Jewell could offer to create good will and trust within the West and among CWC members is a commitment to a categorical and formal revocation of the “Wild Lands” order.  It is an unnecessary lightening rod.  While funding for it has been congressionally halted, and the DOI insists it is not implementing the policy, the Wild Lands order remains listed as an active Secretarial Order.”

“Each of us has other, specific needs in our states and districts that we hope Mrs. Jewell will address in the coming days, including water storage, wildfire protection, and monument designations, among others.  We also all have concerns with various regulations that impact coal and hard-rock mining, oil and gas development, forestry, grazing, off-road vehicle use and other economic activities.  No matter our partisan affiliations, we all share the goal of protecting the environment, creating more jobs, and increasing take home pay for American families.  The West has the tools and the leadership to lead America from economic doldrums to prosperity.”

For more information about the Congressional Western Caucus, please visit www.westerncaucus.pearce.house.gov.

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