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Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks Before the Appropriations Full Committee

June 27, 2012
Statements For the Record

[as prepared]

I rise in support of Mr. Moran’s amendment to strike the egregious policy riders from this appropriations bill..  There are many reasons to be disappointed in this bill, and removing the riders will not solve these fundamental problems.  Nevertheless, I support this amendment because it will prevent additional damage to our precious natural resources.

For example, several of these riders provide large giveaways to a tiny minority of federally leased livestock operations.  Shielding grazing permits from federal regulation would have a detrimental impact on public lands owned by the American people.  Expanded grazing leads to decreased water quality and increased soil erosion, and we cannot allow these negative consequences to go unregulated.  This bill also proposes to double the length of these grazing leases to periods of 20 years.  What other federal contracts would we allow to go unsupervised or renegotiated for such an extended period?

Additionally, this bill would specifically exempt one of the most destructive grazing methods, known as a “mobile permit”, from complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.  Compared to other grazing methods, mobile permits allow grazing animals to move within large areas, causing greater negative consequences to native wildlife and their habitats.  

Simply put, exempting these permits from NEPA review will lead to destruction.  This method has already been attributed to declines in native species populations, such as bighorn sheep.  We know these Bighorn sheep are endangered and that mixing them with domestic sheep has led to diseases, particularly pneumonia, contracted by Bighorn sheep.  We have made major investments that have successfully restored Bighorn populations that had previously vanished, and strengthened other populations on the verge of extinction.

Viable Bighorn populations generate millions in revenues from hunting and recreation, and are a vital and treaty-protected resource for Native American tribal nations.

I cannot understand why we would continue to allow a small minority of livestock producers to profit at the expense of taxpayers and our environment.

I am also deeply troubled by the numerous dirty water riders that have been attached to this bill.  The most damaging attack on clean water and health is Section 434 that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from better protecting small streams and wetlands as well as the rivers, lakes, streams, and bays they flow into and help keep clean.  The streams that the proposed EPA policy will safeguard serve as sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans.  They are also where our families fish, swim, and boat and serve as vital habitat for fish and wildlife.

My state knows the importance of clean water.  We are so concerned that our state passed the Clean Water Legacy Act -- a constitutional amendment taxing our citizens to ensure we have clean water for future generations.

Please do not undermine the goal of “clean water for all” by destroying the nation’s most important safeguard against water pollution and for public health.  These issues with grazing and water regulation only scratch the surface of the troublesome provisions in this bill.  

I know that our subcommittee’s chair and ranking member, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Moran, were under tremendous pressure given the drastic reduction in our expected allotment.  I would like to take a moment to thank them for the bipartisan spirit in which they worked to ensure that this bill protected funding for our treaty obligations to Indian Country.  

I can only hope that conferencing with the Senate will restore the rest of these accounts to levels that show the same concern for the health of the American people and our natural resources.  The riders under consideration in this amendment, however, are purely partisan, and I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and remove these riders.