February 17, 2021

Congressman Joe Neguse Elected to Chair U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse was elected to serve as Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Congressman Neguse will replace Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who previously chaired the Subcommittee, as she leaves to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of the Interior. He is the first Coloradan to hold the position and the first African American to serve in the role since the Committee was formed 215 years ago. 

“I’m so honored to be elected Chair of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee as we begin critical work to preserve our public lands, restore our forests and protect our communities from record-breaking wildfires,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Colorado is home to diverse and rich ecosystems, and treasured public lands that make up over 36% of our state, including 12 national forests. Our state’s robust outdoor recreation economy also inextricably links Colorado’s lands with our economic growth. As a result, the issues discussed in this Subcommittee have a profound impact on the health and safety of Coloradans, our local economies and every aspect of our environment. For Coloradans to have a voice as our Subcommittee takes up issues surrounding public land preservation, environmental sustainability and wildfire mitigation is absolutely crucial. I look forward to the work ahead for our climate, our lands and for Colorado.” 

As Chair of the Subcommittee, Congressman Neguse intends to pursue a bold and comprehensive agenda to protect America’s public lands, and will work closely with the Biden Administration and Secretary-Designate Haaland to accomplish the same. In the early days of his tenure, he plans to shepherd a public lands package through the U.S. House of Representatives. He also plans to introduce legislation to establish a 21st Century Conservation Corps and champion major investments in wildfire mitigation, resiliency and recovery in the wake of devastating wildfires in Colorado. 

His priorities include:

  • Strengthening our Dedication to Conservation and Supporting Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Economy: Legislation such as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act would help ensure that 400,000 acres of some of the most pristine places in Colorado will be protected for future generations and would boost Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy. As Public lands Chair, Congressman Neguse will make it his top priority to ensure that we continue on a path of conserving special landscapes and defending them from any efforts to strip protections.
  • Preparing and Responding to Wildfire: Colorado experienced a historic 2020 wildfire season, with the three largest fires in state history all occurring in the last year. As climate change continues to impact the Western United States, wildfire season has only become longer, necessitating more attention from Congress. As Public Lands Chair, Congressman Neguse will make it a priority to advocate for responsible, science-based forest management, secure support for the USFS and federal wildland firefighters, and find bipartisan agreement where possible to address the threat, mitigate risk, and improve our response to wildfire.
  • Continued Support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): Since its inception, the LWCF program has established over 41,000 parks – including Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Lory State Park, and other iconic parks in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Nearly 1,000 LWCF grants have leveraged over $147 million for local government and state park investments in Colorado. In the 2nd District alone, there have been 191 LWCF projects. With the historic passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the 116th Congress, LWCF will receive full and permanent funding. As Public Lands Chair, Congressman Neguse will make it a priority to ensure that this program remains strong as our nation’s premier conservation program.
  • Addressing Deferred Maintenance: Given Colorado’s world class recreation opportunities, ensuring our public lands are properly maintained is a top priority.  As one of our country’s most popular national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park faces a significant maintenance backlog of $84 million. Our park employees are working hard to take care of this beautiful place, but they can’t do it alone. As Public Lands Chair, Congressman Neguse will also be dedicated to prioritizing deferred maintenance on our public lands and national parks to ensure everyone can enjoy them safely.
  • Addressing Climate Change through Public Lands: America’s public lands are one of the best resources we have to respond to the climate crisis. These protected places help safeguard biodiversity by protecting important wildlife habitat and enhancing ecological connectivity; safeguard ecosystem services, such as clean air and water; and provide abundant opportunities for scientific research.
  • Making Historic Investments in the Natural Resource Workforce: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented economic challenge to communities across the country. As Public Lands Chair, Congressman Neguse is committed to both providing economic relief and supporting the health of our public lands by making historic investments in the natural resource workforce. Through a reimagined conservation or climate corps, we can put people to work, improve our stewardship of public lands, and strengthen the next generation of natural resource managers.
  • Environmental Justice: Justice and equality must be at the center of conservation and environmental policy. It is imperative that Congress ensure that all people have a right to clean air, water and a healthy environment, and Chair Neguse will be committed to these principles, including supporting the Environmental Justice for All Act, led by Chair Grijalva and Rep. McEachin.
  • Amplifying Native Voices: The views of Indigenous communities are critical when considering public lands policy decisions.  Chair Neguse is committed to building on the outstanding work of Representative Deb Haaland and dedicated to ensuring that Native Americans and tribal governments are consulted in public lands legislation.

Since his first days in office, Congressman Neguse has made preserving public lands a hallmark of his work in Congress. He introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or the CORE Act in the House and secured passage of the bill through Congress twice with bipartisan support. In January, alongside Senator Michael Bennet and Senator John Hickenlooper he reintroduced the bill in the 117th Congress, hopeful for final passage under a Democratic-led Senate. Neguse has also introduced a proposal to create a 21st Century Conservation Corps to put Americans to work on public land maintenance projects, as well as proposals to invest in regenerative agriculture on public lands. Five of the nine bills he enacted into law last Congress directly impact public lands in the 2nd district, including his proposals to expand the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, make a boundary adjustment in Arapaho National Forest, protect wildlife in the Platte River Basin and ensure local water access at the Bolts Ditch Headgate. 

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