Obama administration voices opposition to omnibus lands bill

Feb. 5, 2014 at 7:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The Obama administration expressed opposition Wednesday to a lands-use bill before Congress, one day before U.S. House Republican leaders plan a vote on it.

H.R. 2954, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is actually 10 bills rolled into one dealing with various natural resources issues.

The White House issued a statement by the Office of Management and Budget saying it "strongly" opposes parts of the measure on environmental grounds. However, there was no threat of a veto like the one the administration issued Wednesday regarding a bill dealing with California's drought.

"Overall, H.R. 2954 contains a number of provisions that would undermine the responsible balance of interests and considerations in the stewardship of the nation's lands and natural resources," the statement said. "Further, provisions of the bill would disregard or reduce public engagement on a range of community interests, including natural resource protections, and preclude agencies from considering less environmentally detrimental alternatives."

Specifically, the administration said it opposes the bill because it would waive federal law to expedite timber harvesting in California, loosen restrictions on off-road vehicles in North Carolina seashore areas and reduce oversight of grazing lands managed by the Interior Department.

The administration said the bill would remove protections in place for lands that provide natural storm barriers in Florida, "set a troubling precedent" for managing the use of hand-propelled vessels in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks and give away a federal interest in land in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, for free.

The administration said it supports some parts of the overall bill -- which has yet to be taken up by the Senate, controlled by Democrats -- including provisions for the operation of the Green Mountain Lookout in Washington state and the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast.

The administration said it "looks forward to working with Congress to perfect related provisions."

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