March 19, 2021

Congressman Joe Neguse Unveils Plan For “Restoring Our Lands and Communities” as Newly Appointed Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands

As first Coloradan to serve as Chairman, Neguse sets his first hearing as Chair to discuss the 21st Century Conservation Corps and efforts to Build Back Better in Rocky Mountain West

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, as the newly appointed Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands—the first Coloradan and first African-American to serve in that capacity—unveiled his plan for “Restoring Our Lands and Communities,” a public lands agenda that will guide the Subcommittee’s work and put local communities at the forefront in restoring our parks, forests and public lands and tackling western wildfires. Congressman Neguse will Chair his first hearing next week, a discussion on the reimagined 21st Century Conservation Corps, a historic investment in the natural resources workforce, and efforts to Build Back Better. 

Tune into Tuesday’s hearing: Building Back Better: Examining the Future of America’s Public Lands at 8:00 am MT/ 10:00am ET here. 

“I’m eager to get to work as Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, delivering results for the people of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West as we work to restore our lands and our communities and build a brighter future,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Our approach has always been to lead locally and listen first. That’s the approach we’ve modeled through the CORE Act, Colorado conservation legislation that was crafted by the local communities, conservationists, sportsmen and outdoor businesses across our state, and it’s the model we plan to follow as the Public Lands Subcommittee begins its critical work. Our ‘Restoring our Lands and Communities’ plan will prioritize the immediate needs of our local communities, by investing in our outdoor recreation economy, prioritizing science-based wildfire mitigation and adaptation efforts, strengthening our natural resources workforce through a reimagined 21st Century Conservation Corps, and through every tenant of our work following the lead of our local communities.” 

“Rep. Neguse is one of the most active conservation and climate champions in Congress, and Coloradans are already enjoying the benefits of his leadership,” said Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “He understands the need to listen to the public, not just polluting industries, while we’re building a more sustainable economy and a better way of doing business. I’m excited to work with him on strengthening our outdoor economy, preparing better for climate change, putting environmental justice principles into law and all the other priorities he’s rightly focused on for his constituents and for our country.”

Congressman Neguse was recently ranked the most effective lawmaker for legislating on public lands, by the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking. 

Earlier this week, Congressman Neguse led a letter with his colleagues calling for local community input to be included in President Biden’s “30 by 30” initiative. 

In the coming weeks, Congressman Neguse plans to launch a public lands listening tour across the state to hear from Coloradans about their priorities for public lands conservation, wildfire mitigation and investments in the outdoor recreation industry.

Chair Neguse’s “Restoring Our Lands and Communities” Plan will 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 one of his first actions as Chair, Congressman Neguse ushered the CORE Act and other important public lands measures through the House.
  • 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. Congressman Neguse Co-Chairs the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, and is lead sponsor on several bills to equip communities in the wake of devastating wildfires.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Background
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 three times with bipartisan support. 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. 

###