Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

What are they thinking in Washington?

A bill is wending its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.
HR 3009 would prevent unique, special places, like the Big Sandy and Duck River marshes and bottomland hardwoods on Kentucky Lake, from being set aside as sanctuaries for wildlife and public, wildlife-associated recreation.
All six of the National Wildlife Refuges in Tennessee were established by past presidents, from Reelfoot Lake by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 to Chickasaw Bluff by Ronald Reagan in 1985.
From Teddy Roosevelt setting aside Florida’s Pelican Island in 1903 as the first refuge to Barack Obama designating the Everglades Headwaters as Conservation Area this year, almost all wildlife refuges were established through the Executive branch.
On bipartisan basis, with nearly the same number created by Republican and Democratic administrations they include — before President Obama — the 50 million acre Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument added by President Bush in 2009.
Some GOP House Members are out to change this process. Their National Wildlife Review Act not only would disallow future creation of refuges through the Executive branch, making it the prerogative of the Congress alone, but retroactively repeal the most recent, Everglades Conservation-Area designation.
Veritable mountains of Congress’ unfinished work include the failure to even complete the federal budget in timely fashion, and yet it is looking for additional duties such as this one, performed by the nation’s presidents for over a century?
Should one surmise Congress judges its service credentials in assessing and managing federal public lands superior to those of the agencies traditionally charged with these duties?
Is it another in the stream of measures, one might further ask, through which the GOP has consistently sought to block a young president’s every initiative on environmental or other, domestic policy matters?
Does it aim simply to halt further growth of the refuge system, though there remains obvious need through population growth and human development pressures to preserve natural places for wildlife, too?
Virtual visitors can note that the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is sanctuary for 240 species of birds, including the continent’s largest concentration of wintering bald eagles, and that, seasonally, more than 50 species of mammals and 75 species of reptiles and amphibians can be seen there.
Overwhelmingly the real visitors there — 275,000 in 2010 — came in groups of family and friends who enjoyed hiking and photography, bird and other wildlife watching, fishing and big game hunting.
Overwhelmingly at 90 percent, they found their activity and recreation interests well satisfied. Their expenditures in visiting this refuge brought more than $13 million to nearby communities that year.
Crucial oases for preservation of fish, wildlife and plants, the national refuges remain a highly popular part of Americans’ public-lands heritage, while annually providing some $26 billion in value to the economy. Very nearly all of them (91 percent) having been established through the Executive branch, the misguided GOP effort to arrogate this authority to the Congress alone should concern citizens everywhere, and should be abandoned by the House of Representatives.