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COLUMN: Focusing on Rural and Forest Communities, Taking on Federal Overreach

July 18, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

I am a strong believer that the flurry of top-down rules from the federal government threatens job creation over the long-run rather than empowering individuals or moving our economy forward.

Last week, the House passed an important piece of legislation to promote responsible use of our natural resources and to reverse regulatory overreach by reining in the Environmental Protection Agency and bringing its staffing levels in line with 1989 levels. I supported passage of H.R. 5538, the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which contained important provisions that I was proud to introduce on behalf of rural and forest communities in Central Washington.

One of my amendments addresses a current problem in Washington, where the gray wolf is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the western two-thirds of the state but is delisted in the eastern third. This fragmented listing means there are no geographic barriers to prevent wolves from traveling between listed and delisted areas – posing a risk to people’s lives, properties, farming, and ranching in the region. My amendment prohibits the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from using any funds to continue treating the gray wolf under ESA after June 13, 2017, which is consistent with the Service’s proposal in 2013 to delist the gray wolf. This timeline provides agencies with enough funding to work with states to develop and implement individual state management plans that would go into effect when federal management ends. I also added language to the bill urging Fish & Wildlife to finalize its proposal to delist recovered gray wolves range-wide.

The legislation also included my amendment restoring funds for the Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Program, which assists livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss from predation by wolves, and addresses livestock losses caused by wolves.

Another amendment I offered is critical to livestock farmers across the country. It requires the EPA to adhere to the law’s intended scope rather than expanding regulations to target farmers. It prevents the EPA from expanding regulations under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). Congress never intended for this law to be used to regulate agriculture, and EPA’s own regulations say it does not apply to agriculture, yet some have still attempted to use it. Farmers have the responsibility to be good stewards, and they deserve clarity as to which laws apply to them.

We are already well into another dry, hot summer. To continue efforts to prevent catastrophic fires like the Carlton Complex which started two years ago this month, I requested that funding for hazardous fuels management be prioritized to promote forest management and reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires. The overall bill includes $575 million for the program, which is $30 million above current funding level. Congress must continue to act to prevent and mitigate wildfires so that we do not have another record-breaking fire season.

Finally, my amendment addressing the recent EPA-funded, anti-agriculture “What’s Upstream” lobbying campaign in Washington was adopted. My amendment reiterates current law by prohibiting funds from being used in support of any such advocacy campaign.

Put simply, I will continue to act to stop overreach by the executive branch under this or any future administration.