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Simpson Bills Await House Action

by Graham Garner
Idaho State Journal, June 12, 2003

Measures address salmon recovery, monument fairness

POCATELLO -- Congressman Mike Simpson has two pieces of legislation affecting western conservation efforts awaiting action in the House Committee on Resources.

The committee took action Wednesday on the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act, a bill including Idaho among the states receiving federal money to protect and restore salmon habitat.

Last week, Simpson reintroduced his National Monument Fairness Act, a bill which would limit the president's ability to declare expansive national monuments without first giving state officials notice and seeking congressional approval.

The salmon bill asked Congress to authorize $250 million a year for three years for the restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho.

"I don't think we will have any problem getting it out of the Resources Committee," Simpson said before the hearing. "It's passed the House three times now and it has bipartisan support."

The bill requested an increase from $200 million to $250 million, or $50 million a year for each state involved.

The committee amended the bill to keep the level at $200 million, or $40 million per state.

Though Congress established the fund a few years ago, Idaho has never been included and the full funding has never been appropriated.

What funding has been granted, $90 million last year, has largely been consumed by Alaska and Washington.

"We obviously have a lot of the salmon habitat and we don't want to hurt the level for some of the other authorized states," Simpson said, "so we wanted to allow Idaho to participate and increase the authorization by whatever level we fund each state."

The money could be used for programs such as fish screening and improving habitat.

Federal funding would be transferred to the Idaho Office of Conservation and Species, directed by the governor's office.

The State receives 85 percent of the money and Native American tribes receive 15 percent.

Under the bill, states should maintain their current levels of funding for salmon recovery activities and not just substitute federal money for currently funded state salmon programs to use their funds for other priorities.

Simpson's monuments bill is another piece of legislation revived after attempts in previous sessions.

The bill amends the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require the president to solicit public participation and comment, and to consult with the governor and congressional delegation of the state at least 60 days prior to any national monument proclamation.

Congress must also approve any monument designation or expansion that is larger than 50,000 acres within two years of creation.

Should Congress fail to do so, the land would revert back to its prior designation.

The new guidelines would apply only to monuments created after the bill becomes law.

Critics say the bill is a knee-jerk reaction to the creation of the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah in 1996.

The declaration came with little public input and despite the objections of a majority of Utah state officials.

"I know they think it is a grudge. I don't have a grudge with Escalante," Simpson said. "It is a basic belief of mine that Congress needs to be involved in the decision-making process. Congress has a responsibility to determine land use in this country and I don't think Congress should avoid its responsibilities."

Clinton used the Antiquities Act 22 times to designate nearly 5.9 million acres of federal land as national monuments.

Simpson said his bill would ensure the public and the public's elected officials would have input on decisions affecting large tracts of land, but the president would retain the ability to unilaterally make declarations under 50,000 acres.

Status of Simpson's Bills

Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson expects the House to take action on two conservation-related bills in the near future, one which he authored and another on which he is listed as a co-sponsor:

- National Monument Fairness Act

Official Bill Number and Title: H.R.2386. To amend the Antiquities Act regarding the establishment by the President of certain national monuments and to provide for public participation in the proclamation of national monuments.

Co-sponsors: 14

Latest Major Action: Introduced and referred to the House Committee on Resources, June 5.

-- Pacific Salmon Recovery Act

Official Bill Number and Title: H.R.1945. To authorize the Secretary of Commerce to provide financial assistance to the States of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho for salmon habitat restoration projects in coastal waters and upland drainages, and for other purposes.

Sponsored by: Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

Co-sponsors: 12, including Simpson

Latest Major Action: House Committee or Resources amended the bill and reported it to the House, June 11.

Graham Garner , Journal Writer
Simpson Bills Await House Action
Idaho State Journal, June 12, 2003

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