Saturday, July 5, 2014

PL93-620 Y. Jan-Jun 1975: Surprises in the Lost-&-Found: The Wilderness; the Hunters

When Goldwater-Emerson, in a snit about their bill being criticized in early 1973, revised it for Senate consideration, they dropped the provision for establishing a Grand Canyon Wilderness. One of our major goals in improving the bill in the House was a mandate for all the areas within the new Park boundary to be studied by the Secretary of the Interior for their suitability for preservation as wilderness. He was to report his recommendations to the President within two years of the Act. (As I noted before, accompanying documents spoke of reporting the recommendation to Congress within two years, but unfortunately, that major step was never put in the bill.) The provision was so obviously logical and appropriate that there was little or no debate over what then became section 11 of the House Parks Subcommittee bill, and it remained unquestioned when accepted by the Senate-House conference in Dec 1974. 

In January 1975, several people were busily at work, analyzing the new Act and sending memos to implement it, or influence its implementation -- the Park Service, of course, McComb and me. At the same time, copies of the new Act were being sent to us; there was such demand that on 22 Jan, I wrote asking for more. Then, sometime in the following week or so, I discovered, along with others, that we were confidently writing about getting a two-year wilderness study started, and yet the Act contained no wilderness study. Section 11, instead of that study, was the old section 12, appropriating money. Wilderness had been disappeared once again. Was a nefarious plot afoot, the dead hand of wilderness enemies reaching into the dark crannies of the Capitol? 

Puzzled, I wrote the House Document Room, telling them there was an omission that should be fixed. This was referred to McIlvain, House Committee counsel, who was non-plussed, knowing that a solution was not simple. Meanwhile, McComb wrote to Parks chairman Taylor, describing the error, and trusting it could be "expeditiously corrected". McIlvain wrote me, 18 Feb, that the section had been "inadvertently" omitted, adding, "I suppose that I should assume the responsibility since I prepared the papers". He had left out the page with the Wilderness Study Section 11, and the enrolling clerk had just re-numbered section 12. [Too bad he didnt ask first.] When told of the clerical error, Taylor agreed to introduce and shepherd the corrective legislation through. I alerted Senate Interior Committee staff.

Mixing issues, I had also asked McIlvain where the new language in section 10-b-6-ii  permitting hunting by non-Havasupai had come from. McIlvain was clear that the Havasupai could do traditional hunting on the transferred land and, regulated by the Secretary, on the Use Area (in the Park). The new language added in conference allowed the Havasupai, under Secretarial limitations & regulations, to issue permits to non-tribal members to hunt, but only on the transferred lands, not the Use Area. The conferees gave the "impression", to McIlvain that is, that they did not consider hunting on the land no longer in the Park "inconsistent with or detract from park uses and values". 

That begs the question of who brought up the idea, and under what pretext. Did the Havasupai want hunters and their revenue? Were the hunting allies looking to weaken the ban on hunting in Parks? It is clear enough in the conference report that the long-established conflict over recreational hunting in Parks was not resolved, but emplaced, a cuckoo, almost a form of mischeif-making. Too late for objections to affect the legislation, there would certainly be opportunities to engage on the issue both in the Land Use Plan and Park regulations accompanying Havasupai use. 

In sum, there were some nice lessons in legislative sausage ingredients: last-minute change behind closed doors, and changing a bill by inadvertent clerical action. Not to mention the need to read, and remember, what was in all the critical documents over 10, or 40, or 100 years ago.

The correcting bill was drafted, introduced as HR 4109, and approved by the House Interior Committee on 19 Mar 1975. The report, 94-148, took another month, appearing on 16 Apr. What made it interesting is that the purpose was "to provide for a study", not "to correct an error". The background therefore had to quickly go over the Park enlargement and the wilderness study thereof. It did then note that the omission was inadvertent, and the Act had become law as signed with the missing page. This report then emphasized that the conference report said the entire Park, including the designated "Havasupai Use Lands", was to be considered for wilderness. Since much of the Park had already been studied, the time limit remained the same. (That is, NPS would have had two years --until 3 Jan 1977-- without the omission. It would now have that same January deadline, even though the correcting bill was not passed until June, so it had 1½ years.)

Taylor brought HR 4109 to the floor on 21 Apr. In explaining it,  (H2988, Cong. Record) he reiterated that the study would be "transmitted to the Congress  for its consideration and actual designation" (my emphasis). Yet the language still only called for Secretarial recommendations to the President. So here was another nice lesson: Put the language you want and mean in the bill. We would learn in the late 70's what a hard lesson it was not to have followed, since as it turned out, the "actual designation" --non-designation in this case-- ended up entirely in the hands of a junior executive office bureaucrat who favored motorboats on the river.

After Taylor's short introduction, there were extended remarks by Republican Sebelius in support of this "most important wilderness study" that should entail "no great amount of new effort". Then he went on to make important substantive reaffirmations: The Havasupai Use Lands were to be considered. This study should "closely reappraise the conclusions of the earlier study which recommended against inclusion of the Colorado River and certain other lands, apparently due to the presence of motorboats and grazing, although such "prior existing uses" ought not preclude that reappraisal. And similarly the needs for fire management ought not to count against study and consideration. He then got into the thorny issue of the phenomenal increase in river running and consequent conflicts. It needed to be controlled in both ecological & social aspects, and perhaps wilderness designation can help gain such control. The results of this wilderness study will be "of significant benefit to the Congress" in making decisions about a Grand Canyon wilderness. [Tragically, Congress would never get to see those results due to the afore-mentioned bureaucratic & commercial interference.]

What interests me here is that Sebelius, from the minority, made this ardent plea for a meaningful look at the Grand Canyon from the Wilderness System perspective. And Steiger apparently had no objection, though he disliked the idea of wilderness. So apparently this was a show of cooperation by the two parties. I am certainly willing to credit the minority staff person, Clay Peters, for Sebelius' eloquence and knowledge of the issues. I have no indication that McComb or I were involved, though we may well have been. Indeed, there might have been NPS input, though Sebelius's thoughts ran contrary to NPS doctrine of the time. 

After these remarks, the rules of procedure were followed, and the approved bill sent on to the Senate, where, on 14 May, the Interior Committee favorably approved it, accompanied by a Report (94-143) that was almost identical to the House version, except that the Senate stuck more closely to the facts of the section having been inadvertently left out of the bill signed by the President.

Then, wouldnt you know, on 29 May, when Goldwater was out of town, Emerson, seeing the bill in the calendar, called a member of the Committee staff and, with accompanying yelling, demanded "an exhaustive analysis" of the bill, according to our ally on the Senate staff, Dan Dreyfus. But apparently this was just another Emerson teapot tempest, for Goldwater and Fannin had been informed (if not Emerson) and agreed. So a letter to comfort the wounded ego was sent, and the bill went through the Senate on 2 Jun, with Goldwater making a gentlemanly statement that it was only a corrective action on something the conferees had agreed upon. (S9254, Cong. Record)

President Ford approved it on June 10, 1975, as PL 94-31.

The Wilderness study was done 1975-6 and a magnificently positive & sweeping recommendation did go from the Secretary to the President by the deadline. It was included in the new President's environmental program. I have told that story, as well as the subsequent smothering of the Wilderness recommendation, in my 2003 book on river traffic management, Hijacking A River, A Political History of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Source: Documents and notes in my archives

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