H.R. 2954: Public Access and Lands Improvement Act

H.R. 2954

Public Access and Lands Improvement Act

Date
February 6, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Thursday, February 6, 2014, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 2954, the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act, under a rule.  H.R. 2954 was introduced on August 1, 2013 by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL).  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on October 30, 2013 by a voice vote.[1]  The Rules Committee print also includes the text of H.R. 585, 1170, 819, 908, 657 as reported from Natural Resources Committee; H.R. 2095, 3492, 3188 as ordered reported by Natural Resources Committee; and H.R. 739 as passed in Title XI, subtitle D of H.R. 2642.

Bill Summary

Title I: Santa Rosa Island Title Fairness and Land Preservation Act

Title I contains the text of H.R. 2954, which was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) on August 1, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on October 30, 2013 and was ordered reported by a voice vote.[1]  Title I authorizes Escambia County, Florida to convey property—formerly included in the Santa Rosa Island National Monument and donated by Escambia County—which the county received from the federal government.  Prior to any conveyance, Escambia County must convey to Santa Rosa County any property within Santa Rosa’s boundaries.  The Santa Rosa National Monument was removed from National Park Service (NPS) jurisdiction in 1947 and was deeded to Escambia County.  The county leases the property to businesses and homeowners, but is required to retain the title. “[T]he Board of Commissioners of both Escambia County and Santa Rosa County [asked] for a federal solution to allow current Santa Rosa Island leaseholders the option of attaining fee title while protecting public access to the beaches and conservation areas on the island.”[2]

Title II: Anchorage Land Conveyance Act

Title II contains the text of H.R. 585, which was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on February 6, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on October 30, 2013 and was ordered reported by a voice vote.[3]  Title II removes the federal government’s reversionary interest in three parcels of land owned by Anchorage, Alaska, clearing their titles to enable economic development.  Decades ago, the federal government conveyed the land to Anchorage for a variety of purposes.  The parcels are no longer necessary for municipal use, but the federal government’s remaining interest limits the city’s ability to sell the property for purposes of economic development.[4]

Title III: Fernley Economic Self-Determination Act

Title III contains the text of H.R. 1170, which was introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) on March 14, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on July 31, 2013 and was reported, as amended, by a voice vote.[5]  Title III directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), to make available to the City of Fernley, Nevada at fair market value, federal land within the city that falls under the jurisdiction of either agency.[6]  The City of Fernley was incorporated in 2001 and has since developed a long-term economic plan.  “The plan requires the conveyance of BLM and BOR lands within the city for commercial and industrial development, agriculture activities, recreation opportunities, and community and cultural events.”[7]                                                                         

Title IV: Land Disposal Transparency and Efficiency Act

Title IV contains the text of H.R. 2095, which was introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) on May 22, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on January 28, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by a vote of 24-17.  Title IV prohibits an increase in lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) until the agency creates an online public database of all BLM lands available for public sale.  Although BLM has this information, it has not yet created an efficient online means of disposing of land determined to be in excess.[8]

Title V: Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act

Title V contains the text of H.R. 819, which was introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on February 26, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on May 15, 2013 and was ordered reported by a vote of 24-17.[9]  Title V authorizes pedestrian and motorized vehicular access to the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Area in North Carolina (“Recreational Area”).  It reinstates a 2007 Interim Agreement issued by the NPS for managing the Recreational Area and limits additional restrictions on vehicular access for purposes of species protection.  The Recreational Area was authorized in 1937 and spans more than 30,000 acres.[10]  The 2007 Interim Agreement provided a commonsense plan for off-road vehicle use at Cape Hatteras, but litigation in 2008 led to more restrictive rules that hurt tourism and led to economic losses.  Title V suspends these restrictive regulations.

Title VI: Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act

Title VI contains the text of H.R. 908, which was introduced by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) on February 28, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on July 31, 2013 and was ordered reported by unanimous consent.[11]  Title VI preserves Green Mountain Lookout.  It ensures that the wilderness designation of the area does not preclude the Lookout’s operation and maintenance, and prohibits the Secretary of Agriculture from moving the Lookout unless it is necessary for safety reasons.  The Lookout was a fire detection post built on Green Mountain in 1933.[12]  Although its use for that purpose has since declined, it has become a popular hiking destination.  Repairs to the Lookout in 2009 prompted an activist lawsuit, which alleged the repairs violated federal environmental law.  A federal court ruled in the group’s favor, ordering removal of the Lookout from Green Mountain.[13]

Title VII: River Paddling Protection Act

Title VII contains the text of H.R. 3492, which was introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) on November 14, 2013. It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on January 28, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by unanimous consent.  Title VII removes regulations blocking the use of hand-propelled vessels in the rivers and streams of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.  “[D]ecades-old and antiquated regulations . . . block the use of hand-propelled vessels, such as kayaks, on many rivers and tributaries within [Yellowstone], Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge.”[14]

Title VIII: Grazing Improvement Act

Title VIII contains the text of H.R. 657, which was introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) on February 13, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on June 12, 2013 and was ordered reported, as amended, by a vote of 27-15.[15]  Title VIII improves the management of grazing leases and permits by extending their terms from 10 to 20 years; allowing permits to continue beyond their expiration, while they are being renewed; and exempting minor administrative decisions from extensive environmental analysis.  “Approximately 40 percent of beef cattle in the West and half of the nation’s sheep spend some time on federal lands.  Without public land grazing, grazing use of significant portions of state and private lands would necessarily cease, and the cattle and sheep industries would be dramatically downsized, threatening infrastructure and the entire market structure.”[16]  Grazing traditionally has been viewed as a federal land “use,” but has also become an important “tool” for managing these lands.  A backlog of litigation prevents federal agencies from completing environmental analyses required to renew grazing permits in a timely manner.

Title IX: Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act

Title IX contains the text of H.R. 3188, which was introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) on September 26, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on November 14, 2013 and was ordered reported, as amended, by a vote of 16-15.  Title IX directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to conduct expedited salvage timber sales of dead, damaged, or downed timber resulting from the 2013 Rim Fire in California.  The provision exempts the sales from other federal regulations, administrative review, and judicial review.  “Because of bureaucratic red-tape and environmental litigation, salvage activities are often delayed [past] the time when post-fire restoration, including salvage of dead timber can be effectively undertaken.  These delays block timely efforts to improve forest regeneration and wildlife habitat, as well as reduce watershed impacts and erosion.”[17]

Title X: Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act

Title X contains the text of H.R. 739 (as passed in Title XI, subtitle D of H.R. 2642), which was introduced by Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA) on February 14, 2013.  It was marked up by the Natural Resources Committee on April 24, 2013 and was ordered reported by unanimous consent.  Title X improves management of restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.[18]  The provision requires greater transparency on Chesapeake Bay restoration activities through the submission of a cross-cut budget request and an accounting of previous obligations, as well as a plan to assist Chesapeake Bay States in applying adaptive management[19] to their restoration activities.  It establishes an Independent Evaluator to review and report to Congress on all restoration activities.



[1] Id.

[2] Id. at 2.

[4] Id. at 1-2.

[6] There are 9,407 acres of federal land eligible for the city to purchase under the bill.

[7] Id. at 2-3.

[10] Id. at 1.

[12] Id. at 1.

[13] Id. at 2.

[16] Id. at 3.

[18] The “Chesapeake Bay Watershed” means the Chesapeake Bay and the geographic area, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior, consisting of 36 tributary basins, within the Chesapeake Bay States, through which precipitation drains into the Chesapeake Bay.  Chesapeake Bay States include Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and New York, and Commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

[19] “Adaptive Management” means a type of natural resource management in which project and program decisions are made as part of an ongoing science-based process.

Cost

According to CBO estimates, implementing the bills contained in the Rules Print of H.R. 2954 would have the following impacts:

  • Title I: CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2954 would have no significant impact on the federal budget, and would not affect direct spending or revenues.
  • Title II: CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 585 would have no effect on the federal budget, and would not affect direct spending or revenues.
  • Title III:CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1170 would increase offsetting receipts, which are treated as reductions in direct spending, by $5 million over the 2014-2023 period.
  • Title IV: A cost estimate is not available for H.R. 2095 at this time.
  • Title V: CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 819 would cost about $2 million over the 2014-2018 period, assuming the availability of appropriated funds.
  • Title VI:CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 908 would have no significant impact on the federal budget, and would not affect direct spending or revenues.
  • Title VII:A cost estimate is not available for H.R. 3492 at this time.
  • Title VIII: CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 657 would affect offsetting receipts.   However, CBO estimates that any such effects would be negligible over the 2014-2023 period.
  • Title IX: A cost estimate is not available for H.R. 3188 at this time.
  • Title X:CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 739 would cost about $1 million annually over the 2014-2018 period, subject to the availability of appropriated funds.  Enacting H.R. 739 would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Amendments

1)         Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) Amendment #10 – Amendment strikes the restriction on federal land acquisition.

2)         Rep. Lummis (R-WY) Amendment #7 – Amendment conforms with Senate changes to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1979 (FLPMA); allows the Secretary to consolidate environmental reviews; clarifies the definition of current grazing management; and ensures a timely response for temporary trailing and crossing applications.

3)         Rep. Labrador (R-ID) Amendment #11 – Amendment requires the non-prevailing, not directly affected party in a challenge to the Secretary’s final grazing decision to pay the directly affected prevailing party incurred fees and expenses, and clarifies the definition of a directly affected party.

4)         Rep. McClintock (R-CA) Amendment #8 – Amendment modifies Title IX of the bill to allow the Forest Service added flexibility to implement a salvage logging plan on lands affected by the Rim Fire while protecting sensitive areas and maximizing revenue to fund reforestation.

5)         Rep. Young (R-AK) Amendment #6 – Amendment would approve an Alaska Native Veterans land allotment application and convey the land associated with the application.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.