America is home to countless natural wonders, and I applaud the efforts of Californians of all political stripes who have recognized the importance of preserving them for future generations. Unfortunately, our public lands, like so many other areas, are subject to government overregulation. Ronald Reagan warned us of this, saying we must be wary of those who would “use the conservation movement as an excuse for blind and ignorant attacks on the entrepreneurs who help the economy grow, the farmers who make our food, [and] the businesses that give us heat in the winter and coolness in the summer.” Overregulation of our lands not only restricts our ability to fully enjoy them, but can also have negative impacts on our economy and environment.

Yesterday’s post regarding my bill, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, by members of the group Republicans for Environmental Protection contained inaccurate information that must be corrected.

Here are the facts: the federal government did a comprehensive study of the public lands it managed and determined that a combined 43 million acres were not suitable for wilderness. This means these lands do not have the characteristics to qualify them for the highly restrictive management practices reserved only for wilderness.

However, because Congress failed to act on the recommendations of the federal government, these 43 million acres continue to sit under lock and key. Essentially, they’re managed as wilderness, which limits recreation, hampers firefighting efforts and have stifled job creation and hurt economic growth.

That is why I introduced the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (H.R. 1581), to compel Congress to finally act on the recommendations of federal land management agencies. This bill lifts the unnecessarily restrictive management practices on these 43 million acres of land and allows them to be used for multiple purposes, which could include increased grazing, responsible resource development, increased recreation and healthy forest management. Many of these could have positive economic and environmental impacts. Importantly, H.R. 1581 does not impact areas already designated as wilderness (109 million acres), recommended for wilderness (15 million acres) or still under study for a wilderness designation (10.7 million acres).

H.R. 1581 is not a top down approach. Rather, it puts the decision-making process in the hands of local land managers and communities who know best how to manage their lands, not politicians or bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington. In addition, H.R. 1581 does not detail or direct what activities can occur on these lands. It is up to the local federal forest and land managers, as well as surrounding communities, to decide what, if any, new activities could occur on these lands. That said, any such activities would still have to go through rigorous environmental reviews, and nothing in this bill prevents communities from continuing to manage these lands as wilderness if they so choose.

Conserving our natural resources and using our natural resources are not mutually exclusive. President Theodore Roosevelt recognized this when he said “conservation means development as much as it does protection.”  President Reagan also believed in protecting and conserving our lands, but also said “we also know that we must do this with a fine balance… we want, as men on Earth, to use our resources for the reason God gave them to us – for the betterment of man.”  This bill respects and establishes that balance. H.R. 1581 is a commonsense, bipartisan bill that allows the American people to more fully enjoy and responsibly use their public lands, while still conserving our natural wonders for future generations to enjoy.