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107th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session 107-613
AMERICA'S WILDERNESS PROTECTION ACT
July 25, 2002.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Hansen, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 4620]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 4620) to accelerate the wilderness designation process by
establishing a timetable for the completion of wilderness
studies on Federal lands, and for other purposes, having
considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment
and recommend that the bill do pass.
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 4620 is to accelerate the wilderness
designation process by establishing a timetable for the
completion of wilderness studies on Federal lands, and for
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
The Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.)
established the national wilderness preservation system
including a process under which wilderness areas are
designated. That law specifically states that the Secretary of
Agriculture (for the U.S. Forest Service) and the Secretary of
the Interior (for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service) had ten years (and ten years only) to
determine wilderness suitability or nonsuitability and then
report these findings to the President. The President would
then advise the House of Representatives and the Senate
regarding that recommendation. After reviewing the
recommendation, Congress has the option to designate or not
designate wilderness through legislation. It is noteworthy that
the 1964 Wilderness Act has no specific mention of wilderness
study areas and had the clear intent that all the reviews of
all the land would be completed by September 3, 1974. In fact,
the 1964 Act had defined timetables, all ending within ten
years, for wilderness recommendations for which the President
would advise Congress.
In 1976, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43
U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) created Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).
WSAs are lands solely administered by the Bureau of Land
Management and subject to a review process that determines the
suitability or nonsuitability of areas as wilderness. The term
WSA has been used to describe any land area under study by any
federal agency for wilderness designation, such as potential
wilderness, proposed wilderness, or recommended wilderness,
even though there is no general statutory authorization for the
use of these substitute terms. These alternate terms have been
infrequently used in specific wilderness authorizing
Regardless of the term used, no provision of law has
provided for WSA completion and the release of WSAs. WSAs are
now studied and then held in that status in perpetuity--even
after the actual studies are finished. This problem is
exacerbated by a federal court decision which held that the
character of the WSAs cannot be altered in any way. This is an
even more restrictive status than an actual designated
wilderness area. In practical terms all WSAs are de facto
wilderness areas, are managed as such by the federal agencies,
and, thus, not available for other multiple uses. This is both
poor public policy and poor land management.
H.R. 4620 would alleviate this problem by establishing a
timetable for wilderness study area completion. Under H.R. 4620
all existing WSAs would be released from this status at the
earlier of: 10 years from enactment of H.R. 4620; the date the
relevant Secretary determines that an area is unsuitable for
designation as wilderness; or the date the area is designated
by Congress. Land areas with subsequent WSA status would be
released using the same criteria. H.R. 4620 also mandates that
all land released from WSA status would revert to the land use
status it had immediately before becoming a WSA. All areas
released from WSA status could not be studiedany further for
H.R. 4620 was introduced on April 30, 2002 by Congressman
C.L. ``Butch'' Otter (R-ID). The bill was referred to the
Committee on Resources, and within the Committee to the
Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands
and to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. On June
6, 2002, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and
Public Lands held a hearing on the bill. On July 10, 2002, the
Full Resources Committee met to consider the bill. The
Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands
and the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health was
discharged from further consideration of the bill. Congressman
Mark Udall (D-CO) offered an amendment to change the short
title of the bill. The amendment was defeated by voice vote.
The bill was then ordered favorably reported to the House of
Representatives by voice vote.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations
are reflected in the body of this report.
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B)
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2)
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this
bill does not contain any new budget authority, credit
authority, or an increase or decrease in tax expenditures.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, enactment of this
bill could result in increased revenues to the United States as
well as related increase spending, but any such effect on the
federal budget would be less than $500,000 per year.
3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not
4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, July 22, 2002.
Hon. James V. Hansen,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 4620, the
America's Wilderness Protection Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Megan
Steven M. Lieberman
(For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
H.R. 4620--America's Wilderness Protection Act
H.R. 4620 would establish a 10-year deadline for completing
wilderness studies on federal lands and would authorize the
Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to
release wilderness study areas (WSAs) from that status. CBO
estimates that enacting this bill would have no significant
impact on the federal budget over the next 10 years. H.R. 4620
could affect direct spending (including offsetting receipts);
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would apply, but CBO
expects that any such effects would not exceed $500,000 in any
of the next several years. H.R. 4620 contains no
intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no costs on
state, local, or tribal governments.
The Wilderness Act and the Federal Land Policy and
Management Act authorize the Secretary of the Interior and the
Secretary of Agriculture to establish WSAs on federal lands and
to study those areas for potential designation as wilderness.
Once a WSA is established by either Secretary, legislation is
required to change the classification of the study area to
either a wilderness or nonwilderness area. Until legislation is
enacted to make that determination, the WSA is essentially
managed as wilderness and remains closed to new income-
generating activities. Currently, more than 50 million acres of
federal lands are included in more than 600 WSAs. According to
the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Forest Service,
most of those WSAs were established well over 10 years ago and
probably will remain in that status for at least 10 more years.
H.R. 4620 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior and
the Secretary of Agriculture to allow nonwilderness uses on
WSAs by releasing them from WSA status. In addition, under H.R.
4620, those existing WSAs that are not released from that
status by the secretaries would be automatically released 10
years after enactment. Finally, under the bill, any new WSAs
could be studied for a maximum of 10 years before being
released from that status.
Releasing lands with WSAs to nonwilderness uses could open
them to new income-generating activities, particularly new
mineral leasing and development, that otherwise would be
prohibited under current law. According to DOI and the Forest
Service, however, federal lands with the highest leasing
potential generally lie outside of WSAs. Thus, we expect that
any increase in offsetting receipts from mineral leasing and
development under H.R. 4620 would be negligible relative to the
amounts generated from such activities on all federal onshore
lands, which we estimate will total about $1.2 billion in 2002.
Any increase in offsetting receipts would be partially offset
by a corresponding increase in direct spending for payments to
share those receipts with local jurisdictions. Hence, we
estimate that the net impact on direct spending under H.R. 4620
would not exceed $500,000 in any of the next several years.
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Megan Carroll.
This estimate was approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW
This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing
``The idea of wilderness needs no defense; only more
The title of this legislation is disingenuous. If enacted,
H.R. 4620 will destroy tens of millions of acres of potential
wilderness and we oppose it.
While the Majority's justifications for this legislation
are muddled, the facts underlying the wilderness debate are
straightforward. Congress directed \1\ the Secretaries of
Agriculture and Interior to recommend ``primitive'' areas
within our National Forests, Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Public
Lands suitable for permanent designation as wilderness. The
Secretaries complied with this directive and, between 1974 and
1991, recommended tens of millions of acres for designation and
tens of millions of acres for release from further study.
\1\ See the Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.) and The
Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)
Congress also specified that, ``during the period of review
of such areas, and until Congress has determined otherwise, the
Secretary shall continue to manage such lands * * * in a manner
so as to not impair the suitability of such areas for
preservation as wilderness,'' (emphasis added). The Secretaries
have complied with this directive as well and tens of millions
of acres are currently being managed as if they were wilderness
while Congress considers whether they should be formally
The Majority claims to be concerned that consideration of
these proposed wilderness areas is taking too long and offers
H.R. 4620 as the solution. The only problem with this position
is that any and all fault for a lack of progress on wilderness
designations lies squarely with that same Majority and the
solution they propose would only make matters worse. Their
position here is like that of an arsonist who shows up at a
fire he started and offers to extinguish it with gasoline.
Attempts by the Majority to blame environmental
organizations or the land management agencies for the slow pace
of wilderness designations are simply not credible. The
agencies made their recommendations years ago and are
constrained by law to manage these areas to preserve their
wilderness characteristics until Congress tells them to do
otherwise. As for environmental organizations, while we are
sure they would like the authority to designate wilderness,
they don't have it, so it is unclear how this can be blamed on
The ball is squarely in the Majority's court. There are at
least a dozen major wilderness proposals pending before this
Committee, potentially affecting Colorado, Utah, Washington,
Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and California, and the
Majority has refused even to hold hearings on any of them. The
fact is, we have seen the enemy of wilderness designation and
that enemy is the Majority.
Further, the solution to this manufactured problem proposed
by H.R. 4620 would facilitate the release of wilderness study
areas, while simultaneously retarding progress on wilderness
designations. While the Majority consistently opposed granting
the previous Secretary even the most basic authority to manage
public lands without Congressional involvement, H.R. 4620 would
transfer to the current Secretary sweeping new power to release
millions of acres of wilderness study areas without
Congressional approval. In this way, such releases could be
accomplished quickly and without bothersome accountability.
In addition, this legislation creates an arbitrary, ten-
year time limit, after which any wilderness study area not
already released by the Secretary would be released
automatically. Thus, the Majority could destroy these remaining
study areas by creating a powerful disincentive for wilderness
opponents to enter into any negotiations over the next decade.
We oppose H.R. 4620 because the only way Congress can
address wilderness issues responsibly is through more work, not
less. Any Member who opposes a wilderness study area should
have the courage to introduce legislation to release that area
and allow a full public debate of that proposal. Likewise, the
Majority should allow a full public debate of the many
proposals to designate wilderness pending before this Committee
and allow those measures to be considered by the full House.
The language of the 1965 Wilderness Act is eloquent in its
definition of the resource we are trying to protect. ``A
wilderness * * * is hereby recognized as an area where the
earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where
man himself is a visitor who does not remain * * * an area
retaining its primeval character and influence, without
permanent improvements or human habitation.'' The number of
acres meeting this definition is small and ever shrinking and
while the work required to offer permanent protection to these
areas is difficult, it is also our responsibility. That
responsibility should not be shirked and so H.R. 4620 should
not be approved.
Grace F. Napolitano.
Donna M. Christensen.
Dale E. Kildee.
Hilda L. Solis.
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Robert A. Underwood.