WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) issued the following statement upon passage Thursday (July 14) of H.R. 5538, the Fiscal 2017 Interior Appropriations Bill.
“The Interior appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 is important for the Fourth District of Arkansas and two of its largest industries – forestry and agriculture,” Westerman said. “This bill includes an amendment that would place $10 million in the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research Account, which funds the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and the Forest Products Laboratory, among other programs. This amendment would free up money from the federal bureaucracy for use in on-the-ground scientific research. Beyond forestry, this bill would also protect farmland by blocking funding of the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule. This bill is good for Arkansas’ forests, farms, and the American people.”
Westerman introduced the following amendments which were included in the final appropriations bill:
- Amendment 17: Removes $12 million from the EPA’s Environmental Programs and Management Account and places $10 million into the US Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research Account, which funds the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and the Forest Products Laboratory, among other programs. This will free up money from the federal bureaucracy for use in on-the-ground scientific research.
- Amendment 87: The Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Aquaculture Depredation Order (AQDO) for the taking of double-crested cormorants when populations threatened commercially raised fish stocks. In 2003, FWS issued the Public Resource Depredation Order (PRDO) through a final EIS (along with an amended AQDO) which allowed for the federal government, state officials, and tribal leaders to take cormorants found committing depredations of public supplies of fish. In 2009, the PRDO and AQDO were reissued through an EA for another five years, and FWS attempted to reissue them again in 2014. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued, and on March 29, 2016, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision stopping implementation of the 2014 EA extension. In the meantime, FWS is planning to conduct a new EA, but new take permits are not being issued to many farmers, whose fish stocks are being depleted by cormorant populations. The Westerman amendment would bar funding to implement the March 29 court decision.
- Amendment 127: The USGS recently closed the Inorganic Section of the Energy Geochemistry Laboratory in Lakewood, Colorado after an inspection by the Department of the Interior Inspector General that found some 20 years of data manipulation by two analysts. According to the Inspector General:“Our review revealed that the full extent of the impacts are not yet known but, nevertheless, that they will be serious and far ranging. The impacts include publications that were retracted or delayed because of inaccurate information, potential damaged reputations of USFS and individual scientists, and possible lost collaborations with partners.”
The Westerman amendment prevents funds from being used to destroy records regarding, related to, or generated by the recently closed Inorganic Section of the USGS Energy Geochemistry Lab in Lakewood, CO.