The following is a letter sent to Members of the House of Representatives on March 20, 2017, from Lowell J. Young, President of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society.
Dear Members of the House of Representatives:
The Yosemite Area Audubon Society, representing more than 250 members in Mariposa and eastern Madera counties in California, is alarmed about H. R. 23 and the harmful impacts it would bring to our state—indeed, all of the United States—if it is enacted. California is a national leader in collaborative environmental protection initiatives that benefit multiple water users and our economy, and this egregious bill will undermine our efforts to assure protections and enhancements for wildlife, the fishing industry, water quality and the myriad citizen interests in water distribution and allocation. One inevitable result will be many years of costly litigation to settle these issues.
The Audubon mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. We are dedicated to the preservation of natural habitats and native species, and to educating and inspiring others to help protect those resource values. This proposed legislation flies in the face of that mission, oblivious to the ecological and economic values of birds and the importance of habitat protection.
For example, H. R. 23 would likely reduce water deliveries to wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas, devastating migratory bird populations and other species. Shrinking the water supplies to these refuges, especially during dry years, would be disastrous to this essential winter bird habitat on the Pacific Flyway and to the birds that depend on these areas for their survival. A decline in bird populations will also bring a sharp decline in the number of birders and wildlife enthusiasts drawn to these refuges (birding is now the most popular pastime in North America with an estimated 40 million participants) and the economic benefits they bring to those communities.
Perhaps most important to us, H. R. 23 seems to tread on state sovereignty rights, prohibiting California from executing and enforcing its own environmental protection laws and regulations. It would repeal the law that requires restoration of the San Joaquin River, prohibit the state from implementing its water quality protection law and bar the state from its public trust authority to protect fish and wildlife. States should have the right to enact and enforce their own laws to protect the environment.
We are also concerned that H. R. 23 would authorize new dams without further Congressional review and short-circuit the environmental compliance process, giving the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation unprecedented control over permitting.
In short, we urge you to oppose H. R. 23 and will appreciate your consideration.
Lowell J. Young
President, Yosemite Area Audubon Society