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As an avid outdoorsman, a clean environment and strong conservation programs are of the utmost concern to me.  Protecting the environment can go hand-in-hand with our efforts to expand our economy.  One of my top priorities in Congress is to continue to support efforts that balance growth with stewardship.  By reducing rates of pollution in more cost-effective ways, we can ensure that our policies are economically and environmentally sound.

Environment in the House-passed Budget of 2015

Representative Tom Price, chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 114th Congress, introduced the House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,” on March 20, 2015. 

This budget recognizes the importance of the federal government’s involvement in protecting our nation’s natural resources.  However, as we have seen in recent years, bigger government has not resulted in better government, especially in regards to the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  For this reason, this budget streamlines or repeals ineffective and counter-productive regulations like many of those put in place by the EPA.  It would call upon Congress, in consultation with the public, to enact legislation to reform our regulatory system to make it more cost-effective, more transparent, and to ensure that federal regulations do not stifle economic growth or disproportionately disadvantage low-income Americans.

This budget came before the House on March 26, 2015, and was passed with my support by a vote of 228 to 199.  I was encouraged that my colleagues chose to support a budget that offers the American people a brighter future.  

Conservation in the Farm Bill

On February 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 into law.  This bill, more commonly referred to as “the farm bill,” was a bipartisan agreement reached between the House and Senate to reauthorize farm and nutrition programs through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.  Included in this farm bill is the reauthorization of conservation programs that are important to our environment, including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  Additionally, this bill consolidates numerous smaller conservation initiatives into these larger programs in order to reduce duplicative efforts and increase efficiency.  Lastly, this bill ties conservation compliance standards to crop insurance eligibility, ensuring that producers implement approved conservation plans for any highly erodible lands that are being used to produce crops.  I voted in favor of the Agriculture Act of 2014

Asian Carp

Many catfish farms began using Asian carp in the 1970s as a means of effectively removing algae and other build-up affecting overall pond function.  Unfortunately, due to the large flooding in the area during the 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed and released Asian carp into nearby streams and the Mississippi River Basin. The carp have since made their way up the Mississippi River, competing with indigenous fish for resources and endangering local ecosystems.

Congress has already acted on this issue and is working with the Army Corps of Engineers in association with the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration to provide funding and assistance for mitigating the effects that Asian carp are having on the Great Lakes.  Rest assured that as Congress continues to examine the ramifications of Asian Carp and possible solutions, I will continue to be actively engaged in this issue.

Protecting the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are one of Wisconsin’s greatest natural resources.  They contain approximately 20 percent of the world’s freshwater and supply more than 30 million Americans with their daily drinking water.  It is absolutely essential that we make every effort to protect this treasured resource for future generations of Wisconsinites.

Congress approved—with my support—$300 million to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as part of the legislation providing funding for the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015.  Of its many purposes, the GLRI is charged with cleaning up toxins and areas of concerns, combating invasive species like Asian carp, promoting healthy waterways, restoring wetlands and other habitats, and working with a variety of partners to protect and preserve the Great Lakes. 

EPA’s Intrusive Regulations

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers intend to implement a rule that would expand the scope of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The proposed rule would assert CWA jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches, pipes, and farmland ponds.  This regulatory proposal runs contrary to state water law, previous Supreme Court decisions, and existing compacts.  While I believe the federal government has a clear role to play in protecting the environment, I am deeply concerned with this regulatory initiative coming from the EPA. 

In an effort to address this proposed rule, Representative Paul Gosar introduced the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act.  This legislation would prohibit the EPA and Corps from enforcing the proposed rule that would redefine “waters of the United States” under the CWA, expanding the EPA’s jurisdiction into state and local waters.  It would require the agencies to consult with state and local officials, within two years of the Act’s enactment, to formulate a regulatory proposal to define the scope of waters covered under the CWA.  As a cosponsor of this legislation, I hope to see its swift passage in the House. 

Public Lands, Natural Resources, and the NDAA

Representative Howard McKeon introduced H.R. 3979, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015, on January 31, 2014.  This bill would authorize $521.3 billion in base discretionary spending for national defense.  On December 4, 2014, the House considered the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3979, legislation that is based on the House-passed NDAA for FY2015 and S. 2410, a product of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  It was passed—with my support—by a wide bipartisan vote of 300 to 119.  It was then passed in the Senate and on December 19, 2014, President Obama signed it into law. 

Included in the NDAA are specific provisions related to the management of public lands and natural resources.  This legislation would protect public recreation on federal lands, convey over 100,000 acres of federal land for economic and community development, protect land through the careful establishment of locally-supported parks and wilderness areas, provide new sources of private dollars to support America’s National Parks, and update the Endangered Species Act to make the law more effective. 

Sportsmen’s Issues

During the 114th Congress, I serve as an active member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.  I am happy to serve in this capacity and believe in supporting policies that help sportsmen and women.  Consisting of more than 300 members of Congress, the Caucus promotes and helps pass legislation that affects sportsmen. This includes issues related to conservation efforts, gun rights, and other fishing and hunting-related concerns.

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