Simpson Applauds House Committee Passage of Parks and LWCF Bills

House Committee on Natural Resources Passes Parks Deferred Maintenance and LWCF Reauthorization Bills

Washington, September 13, 2018

Washington, D.C. – The House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 6510, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act and H.R. 502 today, which permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has been a leader on both issues having introduced legislation to reauthorize LWCF and address deferred maintenance on our public lands.

“I am encouraged to see movement on both these important public lands issues,” said Simpson. “The positive momentum in the committee of jurisdiction demonstrate that both issues are priorities that need to be addressed by the end of this Congress. I look forward to working with Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva to make these critical bills become law.”

Congressman Simpson introduced, H.R. 5210, the National Park Restoration Act which would create a designated fund from energy revenues to address deferred maintenance in our National Parks. Congressman Simpson is also a lead cosponsor of H.R. 6510. In 2017, Congressman Simpson introduced H.R. 2863, the LAND Act, which would fund deferred maintenance projects in the National Park System, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. The bill also funds and reauthorizes LWCF.


Simpson Secures Fire Borrowing Fix and Forestry Reforms in the Omnibus

Washington, March 21, 2018

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson applauded inclusion of a fire borrowing fix and forestry reforms in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Simpson has long championed a fix to fire borrowing having authored the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act which would treat wildfires like other natural disasters. The Omnibus includes the core principles of this bill by addressing the rising cost of fire suppression and a budget mechanism to provide parity with other natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

“The FY18 Omnibus spending bill might be one of the most critical pieces of legislation for western members I have seen since coming to Congress,” said Congressman Simpson. “I am thrilled this Omnibus provides a solution to fire borrowing. It has been my top legislative priority for years and by including this in the Omnibus, the Forest Service will be able to complete their maintenance and prevention work without fear of losing those dollars to suppression. It is long past due that wildfires in the west receive equal treatment with other natural disasters and this bill delivers the necessary budget changes to stop the dangerous practice of fire borrowing that has led to catastrophic wildfires in Idaho and throughout the west. I would like to thank Chairman Calvert and his counterparts on Interior Appropriations for prioritizing these important provisions. I would also like to thank Congressman Schrader and Senators Crapo and Wyden who have been champions of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act since I began this effort in 2013.”

The legislation also includes several important forest management reforms that will allow the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to accomplish more prevention and management, which also helps reduce wildfires. Specifically, the Omnibus includes a fix to the disastrous court ruling known as the Cottonwood decision that has resulted in vegetative management projects and millions of board feet being put on hold. Congressman Simpson introduced the Litigation Relief for Forest Management Act last year, which is bipartisan legislation that would resolve the Cottonwood case. Similar language was included in the Omnibus spending bill.

“The forest management reforms in this bill will give land managers the tools they need to get the job done,” added Simpson. “The Cottonwood decision is a concern I heard from the local Forest Service on the ground, all the way up the Secretary of Agriculture as a barrier that stands in the way of improving the health of our federal forests. This is a serious problem that needed to be addressed, and this bill solves that issue as well.”

The Omnibus also addresses support for rural counties by fully funding Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and reauthorizing Secure Rural Schools (SRS). This vital funding supports county budgets for the most critical of needs such as roads and schools.


The National Park Restoration Act

The National Park Service is by far one of the most popular federal agencies. Over 330 million visits were recorded to national park sites in 2016, generating over $18 billion in visitor spending to local communities and over 315,000 jobs.  But NPS is over 100 years old and many its facilities are aging and badly in need of repairs.  Currently the National Park Service has an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. Their annual appropriation from Congress is roughly a quarter of that. Idahoans love to visit Yellowstone and Craters of the Moon but they are not immune from this problem with $515 million and $7 million respectively in deferred maintenance costs.

That is why Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and I introduced H.R. 5210, the National Park Restoration Act. The bill takes onshore and offshore revenues from energy production not designated for other purposes and directs the money towards deferred maintenance in our parks. This legislation has the potential to generate billions of dollars to address this backlog. The legislation is also supported by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Senate introduced a companion bill by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Angus King (I-ME).

What the bill does:

  • Creates the National Park Restoration Fund to provide mandatory funding for the high-priority deferred maintenance needs that support critical infrastructure and visitor services at our national parks.
  • Provides mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog on top of annual appropriations for operations and construction at the National Park Service.
  • The fund receives 50 percent of onshore and offshore revenues from energy production on federal lands over expected amounts that are not already allocated to other purposes. 
  • Protects payments to states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Reclamation Fund, and all other existing uses of onshore and offshore revenues. These existing uses will receive all of their funding before the National Park Restoration Fund receives any funding.

What they’re saying about the National Park Restoration Act:

“We welcome this legislation in contributing to the ongoing conversation of developing new solutions to address this important issue. Americans expect and deserve their public lands to be in a good condition when they visit, and we look forward to working with the sponsors, and other supporters of our parks and public lands, in moving forward a widely-supported solution to this problem.”

-Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO, The Corps Network

“Thank you for your leadership in developing the National Park Restoration Act, an important effort to overcome the more than $11 billion backlog in maintenance in our national parks. Roads, buildings, trails, campgrounds, water systems and more suffer from this accumulated problem – and visitor safety and enjoyment of our parks natural and historic resources are very real concerns."

-Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, including the American Horse Council, Archery Trade Association, Association of Marina Industries, American Sportfishing Association, BoatUS, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Park Hospitality Association, Outdoor Industry Association, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association, Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America

“National Parks are the backbone of the federal recreation system. For far too long these treasures have not received the care and attention worthy of America’s ‘Best Idea’. Rep. Mike Simpson’s bipartisan legislation to address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog is the type of action and leadership needed for the Parks to thrive for the next 100 years and beyond.”

-Fred Ferguson, VP, Government Relations, Vista Outdoor 

“Introduction of another park maintenance bill shows Congress is listening to the thousands of voices calling on them to #FixOurParks. Thx @CongMikeSimpson @RepSchrader @SenAlexander @SenAngusKing @MartinHeinrich”

-The Pew Charitable Trusts

"In Yellowstone National Park, we have experienced an unprecedented increase in visitation over the past few years, exceeding 4 million visits for the first time in 2015. With a deferred maintenance backlog of $515 million, the park is working hard to keep its roads and facilities safe, clean and welcoming for our visitors and our employees. We applaud Representative Simpson, Representative Schrader, Senator Alexander, and Senator King for their efforts to support the National Park Service."
          -Dan Wenk, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park

Simpson’s Boulder White Clouds Bill Signed by President

President Barack Obama signs legislation into law

Washington, Aug 7 | 

U.S. President Barack Obama today signed into law Congressman Mike Simpson’s legislation creating three new Wilderness areas in Idaho. The legislation, The Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act (H.R. 1138), was signed earlier today in a signing ceremony at the White House.

“I am grateful to President Obama for his signature on this important legislation and humbled by the tireless work of countless Idahoans that led to its passage,” said Simpson. “The Boulder White Clouds area is now protected, in perpetuity, by the gold standard of preservation designations. I am proud that this was accomplished through a truly collaborative process that produced an Idaho solution to decades of conflict and debate. Without the work of our many partners in this process, and especially the tireless efforts of Senator Jim Risch, today’s signing would not have been possible.”

Specifically Simpson’s legislation will do the following:

  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area:  The Sawtooth National Forest would remain as the principle administrative body and the current management would remain intact under the existing SNRA law (PL 92-400) and the existing SNRA management and travel plans.  The Challis BLM would remain the managers of the East Fork BLM and Salmon-Challis National Forest areas.
  • Wilderness:  Three new wilderness areas would be created totaling 275,665 acres. They are the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,079 acres), the White Clouds Wilderness (90,841 acres) and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,040).  The total wilderness acreage would be reduced by 36,968 acres from the original CIEDRA bill that would have created 332,928 acres.
  • Multiple Use:  Four wilderness study areas would be released back to multiple use: the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Area, the Jerry Peak West Wilderness Study Area, the Corral-Horse Basin Wilderness Study Area, the Boulder Creek Wilderness Study Area and any USFS recommended wilderness not made wilderness totaling 155,003 acres. This is up 23,333 acres released from the original CIEDRA bill which totaled 131,670.
  • Motorized Use:  No roads that are currently open to vehicles, or trails that are currently open to two wheeled motorized use would be closed.  The Grand Prize and Germania trails (including the ridge in between) and the Frog Lake Loop would be excluded from wilderness and remain open to two wheeled motorized use under the existing SNRA travel plan.  The following higher elevation snowmobiling areas would remain open as allowed under the existing SNRA travel plan: 4th of July Basin, Washington Basin, Phyllis Lake Basin, Champion Lakes and Warm Springs Meadows.
  • Mountain Bikes:  All areas currently open to mountain bikes outside of the proposed wilderness will remain open.  Under CIEDRA, the 4th of July trail would have been closed to mountain bikes and will now remain open.  This allows the Pole Creek/Washington Basin/4th of July loops to remain open.  The Germania/Grand Prize Corridor trails and all trails outside of the wilderness would remain open to mountain bikes subject to the SNRA travel plan.
  • Grazing:  Grazing plays an important role in the heritage and economies of rural Idaho and Custer County.  Along the East Fork of the Salmon River, generational ranching families provide significant benefits in maintaining the historic character and nature of East Fork while providing significant conservation benefits to the land, including sustaining the wide, open spaces and un-fragmented landscapes of the East Fork valley. In order to provide another tool for these families to maintain their livelihoods, a provision has been included to provide permittees within and adjacent to the proposed wilderness areas with a way to help them remain viable with as little disruption as possible.  Permittees with allotments within the boundaries of the “Boulder White Clouds Grazing Area Map” would be allowed to voluntarily retire their grazing permits and be eligible for compensation from a third party conservation group.  With this compensation, it is hoped that the ranching families will be able to create more secure and certain opportunities for future generations.
  • Support to Counties:  Over $5 million in grants have been provided to Custer County and the surrounding Boulder-White Clouds communities for a community center, a county health clinic and EMT support, and improvements to Trail Creek Highway.  Individual parcels of land will be conveyed to Custer and Blaine counties, and rural communities for public purposes the per latest CIEDRA bill.
  • Recreation Support:  Over $1.5 million in grants have been provided to the SNRA for trail maintenance and improvements, including maintenance and improvements to existing motorized trails and two existing trails to provide primitive wheelchair access, and for acquiring the land to build a mechanized bike/snowmobile access trail between Redfish Lake and Stanley.

Simpson Reaffirms Commitment to Stopping EPA Water Grab

Washington, Jan 29

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has signed on as an original cosponsor of H.R. 594, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which would support the existing partnership between states and the federal government by preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. This bill addresses widespread concerns with the EPA proposed rule expanding its jurisdiction over water throughout the country. Congressman Simpson was also a cosponsor of this legislation when it passed the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress.

“This bill responds to some of the most troubling aspects of the EPA’s efforts to expand its jurisdiction,” said Simpson. “The EPA initially claimed that its rule would provide clarity and flexibility, unfortunately this is not the case. Idahoans have serious concerns about how the EPA may decide to interpret this rule in the future, thus causing even more uncertainty than they have now.”

The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act expands on the achievements of House Republicans in the FY15 Cromnibus bill which included provisions restricting the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, such as soil and water conservation practices, from regulation.

“This bill recognizes that the EPA’s proposed rule undoes many existing and successful partnerships for cleaning up and maintaining our waterways, whether those are partnerships between farmers, ranchers, and conservationists or local, state, and federal governments,” said Simpson. “I think it’s an arrogant assumption on the part of the EPA to say that they alone should have such authority over every drop of water across the country.”

Simpson has long been a leader on this issue. As Chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, he included similar language in the FY2015 House Energy and Water Appropriations Act and authored language in the FY2015 House Interior and Environment Appropriations Act to prohibit the agencies from finalizing the proposed rule.



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Simpson Praises Institute of Medicine’s Report on White Potatoes

Report: white potatoes contribute to useful quantities of potassium and fiber to Americans’ diets

Washington, Feb 5

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson commends the recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggesting that fresh, white potatoes should not be excluded from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.  Simpson has been raising this concern with the USDA for years and successfully included fresh, white potatoes in the WIC program in the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill that was signed into law.  

“Fresh potatoes have been excluded from the WIC program despite their widely known nutritional value,” said Simpson. “Congress has directed the USDA to allow WIC participants to make wholesome food choices for their young families by including fresh, white potatoes in the program, yet the Administration has failed to follow through. I hope the USDA will listen to the IOM report they requested and once and for all permanently end this ridiculous exclusion.”

Simpson’s language in the FY2015 cromnibus only ended the exclusion for one year.

The IOM committee evaluated the 2009 regulation that excluded white potatoes from purchase with the WIC cash value voucher (CVV) and considers whether white potatoes should henceforth be allowed as a WIC-eligible vegetable in the CVV. Summary of the report is online, but some key findings are listed below:

  • Overall, the nutrient profile of white potatoes is similar to that of other starchy vegetables that are currently permitted for purchase with the CVV. Because white potatoes are so widely consumed, they contribute useful quantities of potassium and fiber to Americans’ diets.

  • The nutrient profile of white potatoes does not support their exclusion from the CVV because their nutrient content is similar to that of other starchy vegetables included in the CVV. Increased consumption of white potatoes could improve potassium intake for both women and children.

  • WIC participants’ intake of all fruit and vegetable subgroups could be improved. Current consumption of starchy vegetables does not meet 2010 DGA recommendations for this food group.

  • Overall diet quality for both WIC participants and WIC-eligible non-participants could be improved.

Simpson has advocated for the inclusion of fresh, white potatoes for years by writing letters to Secretary Vilsack, offering amendments and giving speeches to his fellow Congressman on the issue. To view Congressman Simpson defending fresh potatoes in the House Appropriations Committee, visit his YouTube page.