Senator Paul’s amendments fail to pass
By Greg Bird
Tuesday night the United State Senate voted to approve the Natural Resources Management Act, but did so without two amendments proposed by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Last week Senator Paul introduced the two amendments to a federal bill that could have had drastic impacts on future economic development in McCreary County. But, apparently, opposition to the proposal prompted the Senate to abandon the measure.
With a vote of 92-8, with Senator Paul voting against, Senate Bill 47 passed Tuesday night, along with amendment 111, which omitted several of the 81 amendments attached to the bill, including amendments 140 and 141 introduced by Paul.
The Senator’s Office had not issued a statement on the failure of the amendments as of press time Wednesday.
On Wednesday McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie “Bevo” Greene said he appreciated the Senator’s efforts.
“We certainly applaud Senator Paul’s attempts to help McCreary County,” Greene said. “It is nice to know we have a legislator who will fight for the common man.”
With the majority of land in McCreary owned and operated by the federal government, Paul’s amendments would have led to releasing some of the land and opening it up for private development, which could have generated more tax revenue for the County.
The Senator attached two amendments to the Natural Resources Management Act, calling for the Secretary of Agriculture to allow for more access to waterways in the region surrounding Lake Cumberland and to designate parcels of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service along Highway 27 for public sale.
The first amendment, #140, would have forced the Secretary of Agriculture to allow more access on “the waterways feeding into Lake Cumberland” for the purpose of installing docks, boat slips and marinas.
Amendment #141 authorized the Secretary to “conduct 1 (one) or more sales of the National Forest land” on parcels along Highway 27 from Burnside south to the state line.
The amendments, if passed, would have strengthened the Senator’s commitment to improving the economic conditions in McCreary and other counties in his District.
Last fall the Senator successfully blocked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from imposing user and maintenance fees against counties and cities that draw water from Lake Cumberland.
In January the Senator’s Field Representative Brian Mills visited the Fiscal Court to inform them of pending legislation and hear public comments concerning several areas – including the relationship between the Forest Service and locals.
The Natural Resources Management Act, introduced on January 18 by Arkansas Senator Lisa Murkowski (R), deals primarily with matters concerning various National Parks, Wilderness areas and preservation, but also reauthorizes the preservation program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Opposition to Senator Paul’s proposal arose from private interest groups, and apparently was persuasive enough to prompt legislators to drop the language in the final bill.
Kentucky Heartwoods, a non-profit group whose mission is to: “protect and restore the integrity, stability, and beauty of Kentucky’s native forests and biotic communities through research, education, advocacy, and community engagement,” urged citizens to call their legislators on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee to voice their opposition to the amendments.
On the Kentucky Heartwood’s website (www.kyheartwood.org) the organization had published a blog stating they believe opening up more areas for development in McCreary County would do ecological harm.
“While this particular region includes a great deal of public land, there is ample private land in the Burnside, Pine Knot, and Stearns/Whitley City areas – and in between – that are open and situated for development,” it reads. “In fact, less than a third of the section of U.S. 27 identified for land sales passes through or abuts national forest land. And there are plenty of locations with closed businesses and deteriorating structures in the area that are in need of redevelopment.”
The posting criticizes Senator Paul, and claims his motives are for reasons other than helping the local economy.
“He’s wrong, and this awful sell-off of our Daniel Boone National Forest needs to be vigorously opposed,” the post claims.
“National forest land is not an impediment to economic development in the southern part of the Daniel Boone, however Senator Paul chooses to spin the issue,” the post reads. “Our public land is an asset. Whether Senator Paul is trying to curry favors with donors, or just exercise his ideological opposition the very idea of public lands, it doesn’t matter. He’s wrong, and this awful sell-off of our Daniel Boone National Forest needs to be vigorously opposed.”
While exact details on what lands would be included in the proposed sale are not included in the language of the bill, a Kentucky Heartwoods representative stated only about 7.5 miles of the 22 miles of U.S. 27 in McCreary County actually abuts Forest Service land. Additionally, of 275,800 total acres in the county, about 143,000 acres belongs to the Daniel Boone National Forest and 31,300 to the Big South Fork Scenic and Recreation Area.
Formed in 1992, Kentucky Heartwoods has fought with, and worked alongside the Forest Service on many environmental and logging issues within the Daniel Boone National Forest and other areas.
With the Senate passing the bill, it now moves on to the House of Representatives. If passed by the House it would move to the President’s desk for final approval