Statement: Senate hearing on conservation bills highlights gridlock in Congress

Jun 7, 2022

DENVER—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a legislative subcommittee hearing today on more than 20 bills related to conservation, public lands, and energy development. The bills include protections for the greater Grand Canyon watershed, wild and scenic river designations in Montana and New Mexico, and a new national monument in Oregon. Harmful bills under consideration today would also pave the way for McMansions at the doorstep of national parks, expand grazing and logging without environmental reviews, and reduce oversight of drilling for oil and gas owned by the American people.

The collection of bills, good and bad, share one thing in common: they are all unlikely to go anywhere in a broken Congress hamstrung by a divided Senate that is unwilling or unable to pass major legislation. As highlighted by the Center for Western Priorities’ recent Conservation Gridlock report, land protections are lagging in several Western states. Wyoming in particular has protected no new acres of national public land in the last ten years.

Ahead of today’s hearing, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“While it may seem encouraging to see a bit of movement on conservation bills in the Senate, the reality is that new land protections have no chance of moving forward this year. Republicans on the committee have made it clear they will block any bills that take lands off the table for drilling and mining, even when those protections have overwhelming support at home.

“This conservation gridlock is why President Biden needs to take action quickly. The climate crisis and biodiversity crisis won’t wait for Congress to fix itself. Over a hundred years ago, Congress gave the president the authority to designate new national monuments using the Antiquities Act. The administration has more conservation tools at its disposal as well, including administrative designations and withdrawals. 

“Poll after poll show that Americans across the political spectrum want to protect public lands for future generations. They see the overcrowding in our parks and campgrounds. They want their politicians to increase access for recreation, hunting, and fishing. When Congress is broken, it’s time for the president to lead.”


Featured image: Sutton Mountain, Oregon, Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management