Chair McCollum Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2021 Interior-Environment Funding Bill

2020-07-10 08:19

WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2021 Interior-Environment bill:

I want to thank Ranking Member Joyce for his collaboration and partnership through this process, he has been a great partner from the Great Lakes. I’d also like to thank all the Members on our Subcommittee for their contributions. I am also grateful for the leadership of Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger. As this is Chairwoman Lowey’s last Interior markup, I particularly want to extend my gratitude to her for the outstanding leadership she has provided this committee. She has always fought for preserving our nation’s parks and public lands, and for strong environmental protections to ensure clean air and water for generations to come. I wish her all the best in the years ahead, as I know we all do.

For fiscal year 2021, the Subcommittee is recommending a total of $36.8 billion in discretionary funding. This is an increase of $771 million over last year’s enacted level. In addition to our regular appropriations, the bill includes $2.4 billion in fire cap adjusted funds for suppression operations. This brings the total funding for Wildland Fire Management to $5.7 billion. The bill includes an additional $15 billion in emergency-designated infrastructure investments for the Bureau of Indian Education, Indian Health Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. These investments will increase access to quality healthcare and education, and help clean up contaminated lands, polluted water, and unhealthy air.

Additionally, as a result of the impending enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act, in fiscal year 2021, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be fully funded at $900 million, the first time this has happened in over 40 years. This bill allocates the distribution of those funds and once this Committee receives the projects lists from the agencies, which are required by the Act, we will reflect final decisions in the enacted bill.

Last year, House Democrats secured significant new investments in environmental protection and land conservation. For fiscal year 2021, this bill builds upon those successes to advance the priorities of American families – ensuring we have clean air and water to protect our children’s health, protecting our most special places and endangered species, and taking meaningful actions to address climate change.

This bill is a rejection of the dangerous policies and funding cuts proposed by the Trump Administration. Instead, this bill moves us forward, by investing our resources in ways that keep our communities safe and healthy. This bill invests in the protection and preservation of our landscapes and biodiversity. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our entire Nation, but there are pronounced racial disparities in its impact, with African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Americans experiencing higher rates of infection and death. Tribal communities are disproportionately feeling the effects of the pandemic. While our work to provide COVID-19 relief is ongoing, this bill continues to invest in the health, safety and welfare of Indian Country. The bill provides $3.5 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Office of the Special Trustee and $6.5 billion to the Indian Health Service. As a nation, we have more work to do to ensure that we provide for the health, safety, and education of our Native American brothers and sisters.  But this bill is another step in the right direction towards upholding the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations.

This bill also contains $102 million to address the problem of wild horse and burro overpopulation on our western rangelands.  I want to thank our western colleagues for keeping the committee focused on this work. 

I want to note that this bill contains policy provisions that protect our environment now and for future generations.  Given the circumstances we find ourselves in with COVID-19, and the fact that many of these provisions passed with overwhelming support on the House floor last year, I have included them in this bill. These include:

  • A provision to block oil and gas drilling off the coasts of states like Florida, California, and Maine – which passed on the House floor by a vote of 252 to 178.
  • A provision to protect the pristine wilderness of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which passed on the House floor by a vote of 243 to 188; and
  • A provision to end importation of sport-hunted elephant and lion trophies from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia – this passed on the House floor by a vote of 239 to 192; and

Before I conclude, I do want to address one last issue. Confederate flags and memorials have long been symbols of oppression and discrimination in our nation.

In my first year as Ranking Member of the subcommittee, this bill was brought down by the Confederate flag issue. Now, five years later as Chair, I continue to be saddened and outraged that we as a nation have not made more progress to address racism and end the cruel legacy of the Confederacy. I am committed to doing everything I can to help our country confront and heal its legacy of racial injustice. That is why I am including bill language requiring the National Park Service to remove all Confederate commemorative works.

Furthermore, the bill includes language authored by Representative Jeffries that prohibits funds for the purchase or display of the Confederate flag in national parks with the exception of specific ircumstances where flags provide historical context. This is not about trying to erase our history or denigrate anyone’s heritage. It’s about whether we are willing to do the hard work needed to confront the truth of our history and work to right past wrongs. In order to do that, it means ending the use of Confederate symbols which continue to be used today to intimidate and terrorize millions of our fellow Americans.

I hope that every member of this committee, and of this body, will join me. Finally, I want to thank the staff on both sides of the aisle -including Rita Culp, Jocelyn Hunn, Kusai Merchant, Janet Erickson, Peter Kiefhaber, Donna Shahbaz, Tyler Coe, and Rebecca Taylor from my personal office – for all their hard work on this legislation. I urge all Members to support this good bill and I yield back.


116th Congress