This Week in Outdoor Policy – March 28th

What good is new gear if you don’t have anywhere outside to go use it? Tom Flynn tracks policy related to recreation and conservation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.

Bad Antiquities Bill Passes the House
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives voted to pass HR 1459, the suspiciously named Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. Some quickly took to calling it the “No New Parks” or EPIC bill—as in epic fail. Whatever the name, the purpose of the bill is to limit the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows the President to protect places as National Monuments, without Congress. Given Congress’ inability to do much of anything, recently this has been the main way public lands have been permanently protected. In the last hundred years, Presidents from both parties have designated lots of important National Monuments, including ones that went on to become National Parks, like the Grand Canyon. Along with their expediency, Monuments are great because they are flexible enough to allow all sorts of recreation, including mountain biking, and, actually, because places do not have to become National Parks, with all the roads and crowds.

The just-passed bill would make it much harder to designate Monuments, by limiting the number allowed per state and requiring redundant public input. Fact is, no Monument today is designated without years and years of public input. This bill, as was said in the floor debate, is a solution looking for a problem. The difference in how each side talked about this bill was striking. On one side, they forcefully talked about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. On the other, they mostly mumbled about nature. The Antiquities Act matters to the economy, to rural towns, to everyone that loves the outdoors, and there has to be a better way to talk about it. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is thankfully unlikely to pass.

EPA Clears Up Good Water Protection Policy
Also this week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a new proposed rule about the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water act, of course, is why our rivers aren’t on fire anymore, and it matters to a very important interest group…people that drink water. The EPA’s new rule clarifies some recent Supreme Court rulings, saying that the Clean Water Act applies to wetlands and headwaters. This is great news, not only for cold, drinkable water, but also for paddlers that particularly enjoy the steep, remote places where all our rivers begin. We all live downstream from something, and love our waterways for many reasons. Thankfully the EPA recognizes the need to keep all of them clean.

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Tom Flynn

Tom lives in Boise, Idaho and works for Outdoor Alliance. He is passionate about both protecting and enjoying the outdoors - doing anything human powered, but most often on a skin track or racing on a singlespeed.

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