Jewell: Congress must fight for more park funds

Interior secretary makes first major address since taking office this spring
Associated Press
Nov 2, 2013

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says Congress needs to do more than talk when it comes to national parks, forests and other public lands.

In her first major address since taking office this spring, Jewell called on Congress to push for full funding for parks and other public lands in the federal budget.

"The real test of whether you support conservation is not what you say in a press conference when the cameras are rolling, but whether you fight for it in the budget conference," Jewell said Thursday.

Jewell, the former head of outdoor retailer REI, took over in April as the nation's chief natural resources steward. Interior manages more than 500 million acres in national parks and other public lands — 20 percent of the nation's total lands. The department oversees development of about 20 percent of U.S energy supplies, as well as recreation and hunting and other services.

Still reeling from what she called an "absurd, wasteful" government shutdown, Jewell said lawmakers should consider what conservation legacy they will leave for the next 50 or 100 years.

"We owe it to future generations to act," she said, adding that "short-sighted funding and partisan gridlock" were unacceptable.

If Congress does not act to protect mountains, rivers and forests from development, President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to do so, Jewell said. Obama designated five new national monuments earlier this year and will not hesitate to protect historic or ecologically significant sites, she said.

"There's no question that if Congress doesn't act, we will act," Jewell said.

During the 16-day government shutdown, national parks became a political symbol as lawmakers bickered over who was to blame for closing the Grand Canyon and other national landmarks.

Republicans criticized the Obama administration for closing access to the open-air World War II Memorial on the National Mall after the government closed on Oct. 1. A crowd that included Republican lawmakers converged on the memorial at one point, pushing past barriers to protest the site's closure.

Jewell defended placement of barricades at the World War II Memorial and other sites, saying that all but a dozen National Park Service employees who work at the National Mall had been furloughed. The Park Service allowed veterans and their families to visit the memorial, she said.

Jewell said there was "absolutely no political motive" in the shutdown of the 401 national park units, adding that Park Service workers and others in the Interior Department followed federal law requiring that employees limit their actions to those that protect life and property.

"We did the best we could," she said.

Jewell said the Interior Department is working to strengthen landscape-level planning efforts to ensure balanced development on public lands. She announced a strategy aimed at ensuring that energy projects include steps to mitigate a range of environmental impacts, from endangered species to climate change. The policy will use science and technology to advance conservation while allowing development to continue, she said.

"We know it doesn't have to be an either-or," Jewell said. The department has set a goal of 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2020. That's enough to power more than 5 million homes or businesses.

With about a third of Interior's 70,000 workers eligible to retire within five years, the department faces an urgent need for new generation of wildlife biologists, park rangers, scientists and other professionals, Jewell said.

"What happens when a generation who has little connection to our nation's public lands is suddenly in charge of taking care of them?" she asked.

Jewell laid out what she called ambitious goals to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for more than 10 million young people and 100,000 work and training opportunities in the next four years.

The department will work with businesses and non-profit organizations to raise up to $20 million in private funds to support those goals, Jewell said.

Comments

Darwin's choice

Another Obama rubberstamp.....

2cents's picture
2cents

"Congress to push for full funding"

Agreed, on everything they do. Stop writing new laws and work with the ones we have, maybe roll them back 30 years too! Fund all government programs with what they take in and live within their means.

bondgirlM

spend spend spend...when are we going to get at the hand of paying off the debt instead of spending more? OH that's right you have to spend more to stimulate the economy, spend yourself into prosperity. What a JOKE, like everything else this administration does.

SamAdams

Oh, you're right enough, Darwin's choice, 2cents, and bondgirlM. But here's the most important thing that I personally picked up from the article:

"If Congress does not act to protect mountains, rivers and forests from development, President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to do so, Jewell said."

It's unconstitutional for a president to spend money without Congressional approval and oversight. And now a high-ranking official is overtly threatening yet ANOTHER such act out of the Oval Office! This has happened before, of course, but it's more blatant now than ever. And if Congress continues to refuse to take action against the abuse of power, well, there's no one to blame but Congress for effectively neutering itself!

SPECIAL NOTE: All of you Obama sycophants better think long and hard before you defend this kind of action. The number of executive orders from other presidents pales in quantity compared to the Obama presidency, and the scope has grown accordingly as well. If this were a Republican administration, y'all would be going ape*hit right about now (as well you should be!). Presidents don't get to bypass Congress, and this one is doing it on a regular basis. Do you REALLY want that precedent to hold? REALLY? Because there's no guarantee you'll LOOOooooove the next president as much as you LOOOOoooooove this one!

The Big Dog's back

Hey loser, check this out.
http://www.snopes.com/politics/o...

SamAdams

The real losers are those who check snopes since it went public some time ago that the husband/wife team running the site are Obama sycophants themselves and have slanted many of their "true/false" revelations accordingly.

Thanks, but no thanks. I'll go with things like the federal record on this instead.

The Big Dog's back

So what part of the snopes thing isn't true?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Titles like this are funny. Just who is Congress fighting to get these funds? I wasn't aware there was one man somewhere to whom held the purse strings that they must appeal. Who are we fighting to get these funds from, who is the mean Scrooge McDuck who isn't sharing his money with our parks?

"We owe it to our future generations to act..." and do what? Get our future generations further in debt?

"If Congress does not act to protect mountains, rivers and forests from development..." I wasn't aware that the default law was that the lands are both free and open to unregulated settlement. Apparently park rangers have to constantly shoo off prospectors and crane drivers who sneak onto the property at night to start developing. And if they get a full night's work in that there is nothing that can be done about these people.

"What happens when a generation who has little connection to our nation's public lands is suddenly in charge of taking care of them?" she asked. Apparently you force them to care at any cost? I sure wish that if people stopped liking Yu-Gi-Oh I could beg or offer veiled threats to Congress for more money to preserve my store.

I think there are options on the table that aren't being discussed and that the people who make higher-up decisions don't actually think about what they say. These questions aren't spawned from hours of opposition research. Just...actually listening (or reading in this case) to what people say. I care about parks and such, by no means am I a Horace Greedly, but I think there is a disconnect that could very well be generational as most in positions of power are also ready to retire.

Who will carry their outdated ideas into the future as they themselves retire from or die in office?