March 04, 2020

VIDEO: Udall Calls Out Trump Administration for Failing to Protect Public Lands, Act on Climate During Interior Appropriations Hearing

Udall: “The president’s vision is moving us backward at a time when we can least afford it - when the need for us to tackle crises like climate change and mass extinction have never been more urgent.”

Udall highlights Appropriations Committee’s bipartisan rejection of Trump budgets and bipartisan investments in NM, national priorities

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGcsJ2E6e4A&feature=youtu.be

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, led a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the Trump administration’s 2021 budget for the Department of the Interior. In his opening statement, Udall highlighted how the Trump budget makes deep and unnecessary cuts to critical programs and investments in public lands, climate action, clean air and water and other important New Mexico priorities. Udall said the nation must come together on a vision to tackle the dual nature and climate crises that are threatening the planet.

Udall highlighted the bipartisan appropriations process of the previous year, noting, “Thank you, Chairman Murkowski. I’d like to begin this morning by thanking you for your leadership, and for working with me so closely on the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill. I am very proud of the work that we accomplished to fund many of the programs that we’ll discuss this morning.” 

Udall addressed the planned relocation of the Bureau of Land Management and touted a commitment to ensure that New Mexico will be treaty fairly during the reorganization: “Now, it’s no secret that I opposed the move. And I still have questions and concerns about whether the move will actually improve the agency’s effectiveness. … I was glad to hear that you still intend to add more positions on the ground in New Mexico to address energy and land management needs. … I was also very glad to hear that you do not intend to follow through on the threat that one of your subordinates made last year to pull resources out of the state—simply because we had a policy disagreement.”  

Udall spoke out against the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget request, observing, “This budget is largely a collection of cuts that Congress has rejected several times before. They are like zombies. We keep killing them, but they keep coming back. There’s no way that this Subcommittee will agree to cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 97 percent, or reduce Payments in Lieu of Taxes payments, or cut operating funds for national parks. But this budget is a very accurate portrayal of the Administration’s priorities.

“In three years, this Administration has actively worked to dismantle 50 years’ worth of protections from bedrock environmental laws, decimated Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, ignoring the voices of Native communities, weakened protections for endangered species and dismantled migratory bird protections, put an anti-public lands zealot in charge of managing public lands…and abandoned any and all efforts to fight climate change. These policy choices are wrong for the environment, and wrong for the people of this nation.

Udall outlined his own vision for tackling the climate and nature crises facing the planet: “I’ve called for protecting and restoring 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. My ‘30 by 30 to Save Nature’ resolution calls for saving enough of our ecosystems before it’s too late. … Our country also needs to face down climate change as the existential threat to humanity that it is. … Finally, we need to undertake all these actions with equity and inclusion as our north star.”

Udall welcomed the president’s recent reversal of his administration’s position on the Land and Water Conservation Fund: “And Congress needs to do more—right now—to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It sounds like the President now agrees with us on that—if that stands, that’s very good news. We need to give state, tribal, and local governments tools to address these issues at their level. And we need to invest in science programs—and then actually listen to what the scientists tell us.

Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Good morning.  Thank you, Chairman Murkowski. I’d like to begin this morning by thanking you for your leadership, and for working with me so closely on the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill. I am very proud of the work that we accomplished to fund many of the programs that we’ll discuss this morning.

I’d also like to welcome Secretary David Bernhardt before the Subcommittee.

Mr. Secretary, I know you are here to discuss the Administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget request. 

But I also want to thank you for visiting with me this week, and taking time to sit down with leaders of this Subcommittee from both chambers to talk about the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management. 

Now, it’s no secret that I opposed the move. And I still have questions and concerns about whether the move will actually improve the agency’s effectiveness.  

But the reorganization is moving forward—and I am going to do what I can to support the Bureau employees during the process.

One thing I do support is investing more resources on the ground in Western states. So I was glad to hear that you still intend to add more positions on the ground in New Mexico to address energy and land management needs.

I was also very glad to hear that you do not intend to follow through on the threat that one of your subordinates made last year to pull resources out of the state—simply because we had a policy disagreement. 

I appreciate that commitment very much. So thank you.

And I want to work with you and with members of the Subcommittee to ensure that BLM has the resources and people it needs to take care of its lands and serve the public. 

Turning to the budget request, I will say up front that I don’t plan to focus too much time this morning on the details. This budget is largely a collection of cuts that Congress has rejected several times before. They are like zombies. We keep killing them, but they keep coming back.

There’s no way that this Subcommittee will agree to cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 97 percent, or reduce Payments in Lieu of Taxes payments, or cut operating funds for national parks. 

But this budget is a very accurate portrayal of the Administration’s priorities.

From my perspective, when I look across the landscape, here is what I see. In three years, this Administration has:

- Actively worked to dismantle 50 years’ worth of protections from bedrock environmental laws.
- Decimated Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, ignoring the voices of Native communities.
- Weakened protections for endangered species and dismantled migratory bird protections.
- Put an anti-public lands zealot in charge of managing public lands.
- Adopted a “drill at any costs” approach for managing our public lands.
- And abandoned any and all efforts to fight climate change.

These policy choices are wrong for the environment, and wrong for the people of this nation.

Simply put—the President’s vision is moving us backward at a time when we can least afford it. When the need for us to tackle crises like climate change and mass extinction have never been more urgent. 

Humans are destroying nature at a devastating rate. In the United States, we are losing a football field of natural area every 30 seconds. Our wetlands, forests and coasts are being destroyed. States have identified more than 12,000 wildlife species that need better protection. Climate change is threatening every corner of our earth. Worldwide, one million species risk extinction in the coming decades.

That’s why I’ve called for protecting and restoring 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.

My “30 by 30 to Save Nature” resolution calls for saving enough of our ecosystems before it’s too late. 

And Congress needs to do more—right now—to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It sounds like the President now agrees with us on that—if that stands, that’s very good news. 

We need to give state, tribal, and local governments tools to address these issues at their level. And we need to invest in science programs—and then actually listen to what the scientists tell us.

Our country also needs to face down climate change as the existential threat to humanity that it is.

We must address the fact that emissions from fossil fuels extracted on public lands account for nearly one quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately the Trump Administration ripped up the 2016 rules to limit methane pollution.

And we must protect environmentally and culturally sensitive public lands from development—like the legislation I’ve introduced to protect Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Developed in partnership with New Mexico’s Tribes who consider this area sacred.

As we transition away from fossil fuels … we must also support and protect communities, tribes and states that have relied on fossil fuels in the process. Transitioning to a clean energy economy is for everyone, and no one can be left out.

Finally, we need to undertake all these actions with equity and inclusion as our north star. We can’t ignore the legacy of toxic pollution that has harmed so many low-income communities and communities of color. 

In particular, we cannot ignore the centuries of desecration of Native American sacred sites and cultural resources. 

I wish I could say that these practices are in the past, but our government is literally—and tragically—desecrating human remains by blasting holes in burial grounds and other culturally significant sites to construct the President’s foolish border wall near the Tohono O’Odom Nation in Arizona. 

Injustices like these must not be allowed to continue . . . and must be addressed through sound policy. And out of respect for the federal trust responsibility and the bedrock principles of federal Indian law that have anchored the government-to-government relationship for more than a century. 

We also need to give tribes the resources they need to protect and conserve their lands … and build strong economies for their communities…not slash funding from their programs as this budget request proposes to do. 

This is going to be my last Interior appropriations bill serving as ranking member of this Subcommittee.  But I am not feeling nostalgic. I am feeling invigorated for the year ahead. It’s so important that we use this appropriations process to find common ground and to make progress on these critical conservation goals this year. And that we keep moving forward from there. 

So, we have a lot to talk about. So I look forward to hearing from you, Secretary Bernhardt, and to have the opportunity to ask questions. Thank you again for being here this morning.