Lummis highlights administration challenges, future opportunities
Casper – With her last term in the U.S. House of Representatives in its final year, Rep. Cynthia Lummis visited the Wyoming Livestock Roundup office on May 4 to update our readers on the latest from Washington, D.C.
“This last year of the Obama Administration, we’re seeing legislation that we passed not implemented and things that we never passed implemented by executive order,” Rep. Lummis commented. “The Obama Administration has continued to work that way on hundreds of things across the federal government.”
Lummis noted that the modus operandi for this Administration has been to implement those things that they desire, with or without the approval of Congress.
“We’ve been trying to bring agencies to oversight hearings to hold their feet to the fire and ask questions, but the closer we get to Obama’s last day, the less they pay attention to what Congress has said,” she added.
The issues facing Wyoming in Washington, D.C. are numerous in nature, though Lummis offered an overall positive message.
As bills continue to work their way through Congress, Lummis noted that Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) bill, H.R. 4739 Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016, has been attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the outcome is looking positive.
“The same bill made it all the way through to conference committee in the Senate last year, and Sen. John McCain pulled it out,” she said. “We lost it at the 11th hour.”
This year, Lummis noted that efforts have been made to alert leadership of the House as to the importance of the bill.
“Our involvement in the bill was to protect Wyoming’s core area strategy,” Lummis commented. “An amendment was added at our behest to protect state plans.”
The purpose of the bill is to prevent resource management plans (RMP) from being enforced for 10 years. It also prevents withdrawal of mineral development in an RMP area.
“The NDAA is a must-pass piece of legislation,” she continued. “Hopefully this bill will go forward in its current form.”
The bill is expected to come to the floor of the House this summer at some point. The bill passed out of committee on a vote of 60-2, so Lummis is optimistic it will fare well on the floor.
“It’s a good bill, and it’s bipartisan,” she said.
While the sage grouse bill is working its way through as a part of the NDAA package, the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) is a part of the Senate Energy package.
“EAJA has passed the house twice, and right now it’s in the Senate Sportsman’s Package,” Lummis explained. “Also in the package is the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a permanent reauthorization without any changes.”
The fund was originally intended to facilitate conservation, with 60 percent of funding to go for local and state conservation and 40 percent of funds to be spent on federal land acquisitions.
“Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund without any changes to make it what it was originally intended is a step in the wrong direction,” she commented. “Last year, 12 percent of the money went to local and state land and water conservation programs, while the rest went to acquisition of more federal land, which is the opposite of what was intended.”
Lummis added, “We can’t give funding going forward because the implementation has been transformed into something it was never intended to be.”
Lummis hopes that the Senate Energy package will pass, with changes made to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“It’s good that EAJA is a part of the Senate Energy package, and we think it will get passed,” she said.
Another hot topic in Washington, D.C. is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“I voted against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for reasons that didn’t have a lot to do with the trade agreement itself,” Lummis explained, adding that a recent trip to the Pacific Rim has swayed her in favor of TPP.
“We were exploring TPP and what’s going on in the South China Sea,” Lummis said. “One of the negotiators that we met with reinforced what we had heard from others. They are extremely concerned about China’s aggressive island building in the South China Sea, as they are all tremendously dependent of China as their largest foreign trade partner.”
“The geopolitical advantages of entering TPP are really important to other countries in terms of providing a counterbalance to China,” Lummis added. “Most of those Asia-Pacific countries need an alternative as a large trading partner, and the U.S. and Japan are the largest economies involved in the agreement.”
While providing advantages on the geopolitical spectrum, Lummis also notes that TPP is good for soda ash and beef, both of which are important to Wyoming.
“There’s more at stake here than I knew before I went on this trip,” she comments. “It’s really good for beef, and it’s good for soda ash, which are both good for Wyoming.”
Another topic of concern for western states is the Endangered Species Act, which has created a number of challenges.
“We continue to successfully build the case that the real experts in recovery have been the states and the counties,” Lummis said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has placed so much emphasis on the listing portion of the Endangered Species Act that they have not had the time or expertise to recovery those listed species.
“Listing is sucking up all of FWS’s resources and, I think, a lot of their talent,” Lummis said. “The gap in terms of recovery expertise is being filled by the states, counties and local people.”
Lummis added that she hopes to leave a message that will resonate long after her term is through.
“Hopefully, we can embed in people’s minds the importance of local and state data, being involved early in the decision making process and using data that is third-party reviewable and transparent in decision-making,” she said. “We are spending a lot of time emphasizing this message.”
Further, Lummis said that the main message for Washington, D.C., is “we need boots-on-the-ground conservation, not briefcases-in-the-courtroom conservation.”
With all the challenges in the federal government, Lummis noted that the election is quickly approaching, and next year, a new administration will be in place.
“I’m trying to look at the glass as half full in this election,” Lummis said. “I see Donald Trump as an opportunity. We can influence him and help him build his first impression of the West from our perspective.”
She continued, “Maybe Donald Trump doesn’t know about agriculture or public lands issues, but that is an opportunity, not a problem. Ag and natural resources have an opportunity to tell him our story and help him understand our lives and what this administration has done to our lives, the resources and to the environment.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.