11.16. 2012 - Update on Hetch Hetchy
Proposition F, the San Francisco ballot initiative calling for a study for the possible removal of the O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, lost. The final vote count was 198,700 against; 57,716 in favor.
Briefing Statement on San Francisco's Planned Hetch Hetchy Ballot Initiative
By CNPSR Member Holly Bundock
The ninety-year old O'Shaughnessy Dam backing up the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park will be studied for possible removal if a San Francisco ballot measure passes in November. The measure seeks a professional review of the dam during 2013, the centennial year of the Raker Act which caused the construction of the dam within the park and provided for a gravity-fed water system to travel more than 125 miles to the city of San Francisco as well as hydropower for municipal agencies such as the airport, hospitals and Muni transit.
After the 1906 Earthquake, San Francisco officials who had watched the city burn lobbied the Interior Department for access to the river water. When the Department remained unmovable, the city turned to Congress. For the next seven years, a battle ensued. Dam supporters believed that the glacial water of the Tuolumne River would provide a sustainable source of water for the dry city. The dam proposal, though opposed by John Muir and other notable conservationists, ultimately drew enough votes to pass.
Today, San Francisco officials maintain that any change to the dam would be financially prohibitive; Mayor Ed Lee calls the idea of removing the dam "stupid." One anticipated result of removing the dam would be a loss of city revenue from selling excess hydroelectric power to other communities. The city Public Utilities Commission (PUC) also argues any change might threaten the quality of San Francisco’s drinking water, which the PUC calls “unfiltered" pure water, despite the fact that chlorine and ammonia are added as required by public health standards.
Independent studies in 2004 by the Environmental Defense Fund concluded that technology has eclipsed the effectiveness of the dam. The eight other reservoirs used to capture water for the city - all outside park boundaries- are sufficient to provide the same amount of Tuolumne River drinking water, as well as adequate hydropower for city agencies. (As noted above, though, there would most likely no longer be a surplus of hydroelectric power that the city could sell to other communities.) The studies recommended restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley by removing the dam.
A spinoff of the Sierra Club, Restore Hetch Hetchy is a non-profit organization created to provide a consistent and assertive campaign dedicated to this issue. Understanding the complexity of the issue, Restore Hetch Hetchy advocates for a comprehensive review of San Francisco’s water utility systems and processes that would make specific recommendations for improved efficiency and sustainability. For example, San Francisco does not currently have a water recycling program.
Restore Hetch Hetchy believes that retired NPS employees who support the initiative lend powerful voices to the campaign for the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley (and John Muir’s vision for Yosemite). About 40 Coalition members have assisted Restore Hetch Hetchy campaigners by signing on as supporters of the measure on the City Election Handbook and on the Campaign's website. Their names will be part of the group of names and organizations that appear in the Election Handbook that will be sent to San Francisco households soon. Several former superintendents have written Op-Ed pieces which have appeared in California newspapers. Former Yosemite National Park superintendent BJ Griffin headlined the ballot initiative process in March. Former State Secretary of Resources Hugh Johnson marched the collected ballots to the Department of Elections in July, which enabled the measure to be placed on the November ballot. To learn more about the issue and what you can do to add your voice, visit hetchhetchy.org.
Adverse Effects of Sportsmen’s Heritage Bills on the National Park System
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 4089, a bill that would open most units of the National Park System to hunting, trapping, and other consumptive uses of fish and wildlife and additional currently prohibited uses. In doing so, the bill would also undermine fundamental principles of management that have governed the National Park System for decades. A similar bill, S. 2066, had previously been introduced in the Senate, but no further action has been taken. These bills present what is perhaps the greatest threat to the National Park System throughout its history. This briefing paper highlights some of the most significant problems with these two bills.
H.R. 4089/S.2066 would invalidate the decades-old management principle that consumptive uses of National Park System resources are prohibited unless expressly authorized. NPS has long governed units of the National Park System based on the principle that hunting, trapping, collecting specimens and other uses that extract natural resources from park area ecosystems are not allowed, unless Congress has clearly authorized such activities. This longstanding principle has been confirmed by the courts. H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would eliminate this principle because they would recognize that hunting, trapping, fishing and collecting are to be affirmatively supported and facilitated on all federal lands. As a result, H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would stand NPS management policy on its head, creating a presumption that consumptive uses are the norm, and must be allowed unless expressly prohibited.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would elevate fishing, hunting, and shooting over all other uses of the National Park System. Throughout the National Park System, authorized public uses are not distinguished from each other; they are all managed on the same level, unless singled out by the enabling legislation for a specific area. No one activity is given favored status throughout the System. The bills would alter that balance, however, by requiring NPS to “support and facilitate” hunting, fishing and shooting. No other public recreational activities are subject to a statutory mandate imposed on NPS to affirmatively advance the opportunities to engage in such uses of the park area’s resources. These bills would require NPS to take extra steps to assist hunters, trappers, fishermen, and recreational shooters. H.R. 4089 subsection (I) tries to brush this problem away by stating the bill does not require a “preference” to be given to these activities over other uses. This provision does not negate the fact, however, that NPS would be legally required to take action to support and facilitate hunting, fishing, and shooting, when a similar affirmative duty does not apply to any other uses.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 does not maintain the current prohibition on hunting, trapping, collecting wildlife and shooting in most national parks and monuments. H.R. 4089 subsection (h) says that “[n]othing in this title requires the opening of national park[s] or national monuments under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service to hunting or recreational shooting.” It should be noted that recreational fishing is not included in the proviso; hence, any national park or monument now closed to such an activity would be opened. S. 2066 is even more problematic because it does not even include this provision, and therefore would compel NPS to allow these consumptive use activities in parks and monuments where they are currently prohibited.
This provision of H.R. 4089 does nothing to protect parks and monuments. While the provision does not “require opening” such areas, the bill still requires NPS to “support” and “facilitate” hunting, trapping, collecting and shooting. Even without a mandate to open such an area, there would be no way to satisfy the “support” and “facilitate” duty without opening parks and monuments. In addition, most parks and monuments are closed by virtue of the principle described above that these consumptive uses are prohibited unless expressly authorized. But that principle would be invalidated by these bills. Quite simply, if H.R. 4089/S. 2066 intended to maintain the status quo in parks and monuments, it could plainly state that the bills do not apply to such areas (or, even better, to any unit of the National Park System).
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would require NPS to rewrite many of the regulations that have applied to the National Park System for decades and that serve as a successful framework for conservation and public use of all park areas. NPS currently applies a concise, clear and accepted set of regulations to the management and use of National Park System units. Some rules apply to all park areas; others govern specific units. These regulations would have to be revised to facilitate the consumptive use activities authorized by the bills. This change alone would be very expensive and time-consuming for the public and NPS. In addition, because these bills would invalidate the fundamental NPS principle that consumptive uses are not allowed unless expressly authorized, as discussed above, even the general regulations for other activities would have to be revised. The time-tested NPS management principle would have to be undone. Doing so will result in sweeping new regulations that will take many years to complete and will result in great expense and public and administrative burden. There is likely to be considerable confusion for the public and park managers over what activities are allowed during the development and implementation phase of the new regulations. When the new regulations are in place, the protection provided to park resources and public use would be greatly diminished because of the broad effect of these bills.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would require most NPS management policies, plans, and orders to be revised, at great expense and administrative burden, to “evaluate the effects of such plans on hunting, fishing and shooting.” NPS manages National Park System units under an impressive and important array of plans designed to fulfill each unit’s conservation and public use goals. These bills provide that every such plan “shall include a specific evaluation of the effects of such plans on opportunities to engage in recreational fishing, hunting, or shooting.” H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would define new requirements for such opportunities, and no existing plans include such an “evaluation.” Meeting this obligation would require many years and vast amounts of money to fulfill. At a time when federal budgets are shrinking and NPS is challenged to protect its existing resources, imposing this cost on the National Park System would have devastating effects.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would prohibit the application of the Nation’s most important environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to the NPS actions required by the bills to “support and facilitate” hunting, trapping, fishing, and shooting. Enacted in 1970, NEPA has ensured that federal agencies analyze and consider the environmental consequences of their actions. To do so, an environmental assessment (EA) or environment impact statement (EIS) is usually prepared. These bills would prohibit an EIS (by declaring pro-hunting, fishing and shooting actions by NPS would not be “a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment) or even an EA (by prohibiting the “consideration of environmental effects”). As a result, fulfilling H.R. 4089/S. 2066 to support and facilitate hunting, fishing and shooting would take place without any analysis of the effect on the environment, including the very fish and wildlife populations that the “recreational anglers and hunters” seek to conserve.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would deprive the public of a role in commenting on the management of National Park System units for purposes of facilitating and supporting hunting, trapping, fishing, and shooting. NEPA does more than require an environmental impact analysis. It also requires that federal agencies allow the public to participate in decisions by reviewing EAs and EISs and submitting comments. Because EAs and EISs would not be allowed, the public would be deprived of information about environmental impacts and the chance to play a role in government decisions by commenting on NEPA documents.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 impose limitations on the ability of NPS to close areas to hunting, fishing, or shooting, or impose restrictions, including for public safety and environmental reasons. The bills allow the imposition of “discretionary limitations” on these sportsmen activities. The limitations must be “necessary and reasonable,” but the bills do not say “necessary” for what. Thus, considering the mandate in the bills to support and facilitate these “sportsmen” activities, it could be very difficult to make a finding of necessity. The ability to impose limitations would be further hampered because NEPA environmental reviews would not be conducted. Thus, NPS would lose the ability to bring environmental information to bear. Without the NEPA tools, NPS would be hard pressed to develop the “best scientific evidence” that would be required by H.R. 4089/S. 2066 to impose limitations. In addition, the bills require the decision to impose limitations to be the result of a “transparent public process,” but by rendering NEPA ineffective, if not inapplicable, the transparency necessary for environmental review would be defeated. Opponents of any NPS limitations would have a strong upper hand because NPS would have difficulty developing administrative records to support actions to restrict these activities without the benefit of NEPA.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would increase the cost and complexity of NPS decision-making to close areas more than 640 acres in size to fishing or hunting by mandating coordination with state agencies. The National Park System consists almost exclusively of federal land. Decisions regarding management of NPS lands are often subject to consultation with state agencies, but that is the case when the state has an identifiable interest or expertise. Most actions to close NPS lands to certain uses do not present state agency questions. While NPS follows a good neighbor policy, a mandate to “coordinate” with state agencies before any closure of more than 640 acres elevates form over substance and could require an additional layer of government bureaucracy that serves no useful purpose. At a time when the broad political spectrum is calling for streamlining agency procedures, imposing a mandatory function for coordination with the state for every closure above 640 acres, without regard to the interests or role of the state, is counter-productive and inefficient.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would require designated wilderness and wilderness study areas to be managed for the support of hunting, fishing and shooting, rather than to preserve wilderness characteristics, including artificial levels of wildlife. Under current law, wilderness and wilderness study areas are to be managed to preserve wilderness characteristics – primeval character, solitude, protection of the “earth and its community of life” in a state that is “untrammeled by man.” Under H.R. 4089/S. 2066, those purposes would be changed to require “the provision of opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting.” In many wilderness areas, such activities are not consistent with wilderness values. In addition, wilderness would have to be managed to result in “sustainable recreational opportunities.” The term “sustainable” is not defined, but probably means maintaining fish and wildlife populations at a point where they can be used to support human uses of hunting and fishing, even if at artificial, non-natural levels. These changes would take the “wilderness” out of many wilderness areas.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 equates trapping with hunting, and it would require that trapping be allowed, for even non-recreational purposes, in hundreds of areas where it is currently prohibited. The bills define “hunting” to include “trapping.” This is a highly unusual definition that does not equate with a common understanding of “hunting.” Indeed, Congress has repeatedly distinguished trapping from hunting by specifying in which units such activities can occur. In fact, trapping is currently allowed in only 62 Park System areas. Moreover, because the term hunting is not defined by the bills to be solely for recreational purposes (in contrast to the definition of “recreational fishing” and “recreational shooting”), trapping for any purpose, including commercial uses, could be among the activities that NPS would have to support and facilitate.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would allow for the pursuit, capture and collection of wildlife for any purpose. It has long been a solid principle of National Park System management that the natural resources of these areas belong to all Americans. Ranging from minerals to timber to plants to wildlife, National Park System resources are not to be removed, except in closely regulated and limited circumstances. H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would abandon that principle for wildlife because it defines “hunting” -- which must be “supported and facilitated” -- to include the “pursuit,” “capture” and “collecting” of “wildlife.” The activity could be undertaken by any “authorized means.” Thus, park area visitors could come onto National Park System lands and pursue wildlife to capture it, collect it, and remove it for personal use. And, as noted above for trapping, the term “hunting” is not qualified in the definition section to be only “recreational,” as is the case for the terms “recreational fishing” and “recreational shooting,” thereby opening the door to the potential capture of wildlife in these areas for commercial purposes.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would require the use of “skilled volunteers” to participate in culling to control overpopulations of wildlife, regardless of cost and public safety consideration and the availability of better trained agency professionals. H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would force NPS to use “skilled volunteers” to cull wildlife. The only way skilled volunteers would not have to be used is when the head of the agency justifies not doing so “based on the best scientific data or applicable federal statutes.” In many cases, the decision not to use volunteers has nothing to do with science, but instead with public safety, cost, and efficiency considerations. Such factors would be irrelevant, regardless of how compelling they would be in a particular park area for not using volunteers. The bills also provide no guidance as to what constitutes the requisite level of “skill” for the volunteers.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would open NPS areas to ORVs. NPS has long administered National Park System units to limit the use of ORVs. This restriction is reflected in Executive Order 11644, issued by President Nixon, and NPS regulations. The bills, however, require NPS to “facilitate use of and access to” lands for these activities. (Note, this provision also expands to cover “fishing,” not the defined term of “recreational fishing,” thereby apparently including commercial fishing). Facilitating such access would, in many cases, require allowing motorized access, because of the remote location of fishing and hunting areas.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would require NPS units to support and facilitate the potentially dangerous activity of training hunting dogs, including in field trials. The bills would add the activity of training hunting dogs to the definition of hunting, thereby making it part of the activities that NPS must support and facilitate. NPS has long viewed activities like training one’s dog as a private activity not suitable for public areas shared by many users. Dogs are allowed in most NPS units, subject to leash and other requirements. The reason for doing so is to avoid potential conflicts between other visitors and dogs, harmful interactions between dogs and wildlife, sanitary problems associated with dog waste, and other practical management problems. H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would make the current management requirements for dogs unworkable, and would require significant revisions to rules and NPS visitor use and safety procedures. Moreover, the bills do not define what is considered legitimate “training,” and very problematic practices are often used to train hunting dogs, such as chasing and flushing wildlife. Such activities would greatly disrupt other uses of park areas and threaten natural resources.
H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would eviscerate the 1906 Antiquities Act. Many units of the National Park System have been created as national monuments by Presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act, a law that has worked well for this purpose since it was enacted in 1906. Every President, save three since 1906, has utilized this act to create national monuments. These bills would impose a major impediment on the designation of national monuments by requiring approval of the Governor and legislature of the affected states. Needless to say, state-level political support for national monument designation is unlikely in most cases. Even if designation could still occur, significant trade-offs could be necessary to satisfy state concerns. This is a particularly difficult provision to understand as national monuments are created out of land already owned by the people of the United States for federal purposes of protecting nationally significant “historic landmarks, historic and pre-historic structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” The Act does not apply to state or privately-owned land. This Presidential duty should not be subject to state politics.
Since these bills represent such fundamental changes in the management of our National Park System, are such a radical departure from current policy, and would be prohibitively expensive to implement, these bills should either specifically exclude all areas of the National Park System from their provisions or should be defeated.