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107th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     107-613




 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

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [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 
other purposes.


    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 
wilderness designation.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    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.


    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.


    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.


    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 

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               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.


    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    ``The idea of wilderness needs no defense; only more 
defenders.''--Edward Abbey
    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.
                                   Nick Rahall.
                                   George Miller.
                                   Grace F. Napolitano.
                                   Donna M. Christensen.
                                   Dale E. Kildee.
                                   Rush Holt.
                                   Hilda L. Solis.
                                   Mark Udall.
                                   Betty McCollum.
                                   Pete DeFazio.
                                   Neil Abercrombie.
                                   Frank Pallone, Jr.
                                   Anibal Acevedo-Vila.
                                   Ed Markey.
                                   Robert A. Underwood.
                                   Eni Faleomavaega.
                                   Ron Kind.