Congressman Rob Bishop ignores locally-driven conservation while wasting time on pet projects

Sep 21, 2016

New analysis finds languishing bills and a broken committee

DENVER—As Congressman Rob Bishop gives his controversial Public Lands Initiative a markup in front of the House Natural Resources Committee today, a new analysis shows that as chairman of the committee, Rep. Bishop has worked to stifle locally-driven land conservation measures, while prioritizing his own unpopular pet projects.

The analysis by the Center for Western Priorities identifies 24 locally-driven public land protection bills assigned to the Natural Resources Committee. 20 of those 24 bills have not been granted even a subcommittee hearing by Chairman Bishop, much less a markup or vote by the full committee. Only two of these land protection bills have made it out of the Natural Resources Committee in the entire 114th Congress thus far.

Bills like Colorado Rep. Polis’ Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act and Washington Rep. Kilmer’s Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2015 are locally-driven and have widespread support from nearby communities. There’s a long tradition of Congresses—both Republican-led and Democrat-led—passing locally-supported public land protection bills. But that tradition has evaporated under recent leadership, leaving President Obama as the only avenue to protect America’s public lands.

“The House Natural Resources Committee under Representative Bishop’s failed leadership is a microcosm of our broken Congress,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, advocacy director at the Center for Western Priorities. “The congressman has refused even the courtesy of hearings on a wide array of uncontroversial, locally-supported conservation bills. Instead, he’s wasting the precious days remaining in this Congress forcing his committee to take up his behemoth Public Lands Initiative—a bill that’s so controversial and problematic that it stands zero chance of becoming law.”

CWP tracked a total of 24 locally-driven public lands protection bills that were introduced in the 114th Congress and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Of those bills:

  • 20 did not receive a committee hearing
  • 21 did not receive a committee markup
  • 2 advanced out of the committee to the full House

“Congressman Bishop could have constructed legislation to sail through Congress, but instead he’s introduced a bill that weighs in at over 200 pages, littered with poison pills that leave key constituents in the lurch,” said Prentice-Dunn. “Senator Harry Reid already made it clear the PLI has no chance in the Senate, and Congressman Bishop has made no attempt to trim down the PLI into a bill that could actually become law.”

The Public Lands Initiative is rife with troubling provisions. In addition to undermining conservation protections, the bill provides unprecedented carve-outs for oil development projects, and fails to adequately protect the Bears Ears region.

A recent survey of successful land conservation bills by the Western Values Project demonstrates just how much of an outlier the PLI is. Successful conservation measures, like the ones that protected Boulder–White Clouds in Idaho and Las Cienegas in Arizona, average 20 pages in length. Those bills took an average of 248 days to pass both houses of Congress.

The PLI, on the other hand, is 215 pages long, and Rep. Bishop has just 24 working days remaining on the Congressional calendar.


The full list of bills used in CWP’s analysis is located here.