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September 23, 1997

H.R. 901 - American Land Sovereignty Protection Act of 1996
(Young (R) AK and 174 cosponsors)

If H.R. 901 were presented to the President, the Secretary of the Interior would recommend that the bill be vetoed. H.R. 901 would impose unnecessary restrictions on the existing legal and administrative framework that implements U.S. commitments to international environmental cooperative efforts. This bill could significantly reduce U.S. leadership and influence in global conservation and is counter to the U.S. role in global environmental cooperation.

H.R. 901 is based upon the faulty premise that the World Heritage Convention, the Biosphere Reserve Program, and other international conservation agreements or programs threaten the United States' sovereignty over its lands. There are several reasons why these agreements and programs do not encroach upon U.S. sovereignty:

  • International conservation agreements, such as the World Heritage Convention, and programs, such as the U.S. Man in the Biosphere Program, do not give the United Nations the authority to influence land management decisions within the United States and have not been utilized to exclude Congress from land management decisions, nor could they be used to do so.

  • The nomination processes for international conservation recognitions are consultative and based on a demonstrated commitment at the local level.

  • International site recognitions do not affect land use decisions by local governments, tribes, or private property owners, and are subject to applicable domestic laws.

  • International site recognitions do not impose restrictions on land use or stop economic growth. To the contrary, World Heritage sites and U.S. Biosphere Reserves have been embraced in many local areas as value-added designations, increasing partnership among Federal, State, and local governments, and private property owners. These designations have also contributed to an increase in international tourism, which is especially vital to rural economies.
The Administration also strongly opposes amendments made to the bill during the full committee mark-up that would include the Ramsar Convention among those international agreements for which an act of Congress would be needed to nominate or designate an area. Nominating and ultimately designating wetland sites under Ramsar is a voluntary, community-driven process that requires State, Commonwealth, or Territorial approval. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service requests written support from the appropriate members of the affected Congressional delegation. Ramsar site designations do not impose any land management oversight by international organizations.

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