The Federal Government Does Not Know Better than the People on the Docks or in the Water

Congressman Lamborn’s statement from the Water, Power & Oceans Subcommittee

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans meets to examine the impacts of federal Marine National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries, including the processes by which they are established and implemented.

The designations of these so-called Marine Protected Areas have occurred under both Republican and Democratic Administrations. While I did not agree with President George W. Bush’s creation of the first-ever Marine National Monuments in the Pacific, the last Administration went even further. The Obama years created new land-based monuments, expanded marine monuments, and created the first monument in the Atlantic Ocean — almost as if on steroids.

In my home State of Colorado, the Obama Administration imposed a top-down, big-government National Monument land grab in the Browns Canyon in 2015. This impacted grazing rights, water rights, outdoor recreation, and compromised the ability of first responders to manage and fight wildfires in the area. Coloradans deserved better than an edict from Washington, D.C.

These national monuments and the proposed expansion of a marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico completely undermine the multiple-use history of our federal and territorial lands and waters. As we will learn, they have real-life impacts on those economies and cultures which depend on their natural resources. They also affect consumers throughout the entire country— including those who live in Colorado, a state that is not known as a seafood mecca.

As an example, the proposed expansion of the Flower Garden Banks Marine National Sanctuary about 100 miles off the Texas and Louisiana coasts could significantly impact oil and gas and commercial fishing activities. The long-term impact of this expansion will hit consumer pocketbooks and limit seafood availability. The federal government’s preferred seven-fold expansion plan — as proposed by the last Administration — has been referred to a “bait and switch” because it does not reflect the diverse stakeholder consensus found earlier in the Advisory Board process.

In addition, the Northeast Canyon and Seamounts Marine National Monument 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts will only increase our heavy reliance on seafood imports by shutting off fishing access. The last Administration simply ignored a local alternative and had what was a called a “charade” of a late-noticed town meeting far away from the working docks of fishing communities. Little wonder that the designation has now resulted in litigation.

It didn’t need to be this way. This behavior from the federal government is simply unacceptable. The federal government does not know better than the people on land, on the docks or in the water. Our agencies need to be working with local officials, industry, and all stakeholders as they are the ones that will directly benefit from, or bear the burden of these closed areas.

We need to return the multiple-use philosophy of our federal waters. While I am new as the chair of this Subcommittee, my time holding the gavel on the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee allowed me to see firsthand the economic impacts of heavy-handed federal actions that prohibit access and commercial use to our natural resources.

Whether it’s making our country energy independent or reversing the seafood trade deficit — and creating jobs in doing so — we can only accomplish these goals if we work together to ensure that we can responsibly capitalize on the wealth of resources that sit off of America’s coasts.

Today marks a good start on this dialogue, and it is my hope that we can work with this Administration to right some of these past wrongs.

Congressman Doug Lamborn represents Colorado’s Fifth District. This article has been adapted from his remarks introduced into the Congressional record for the House Water, Power & Oceans Subcommittee Oversight Hearing on March 15, 2017.