House Natural Resources Committee set to hold first meeting

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is the new chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in the 114th Congress. Photo from Facebook

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold its first meeting of the 114th Congress tomorrow.

The committee's new chairman is Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), following the retirement of his predecessor, former Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Washington). In the 113th Congress, Bishop's bill to help the Ute Tribe protect culturally important sites became law last year.

Other than that measure, Bishop does not have much of a record on Indian issues but in 2004, he authored a bill to prevent the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians from using its land for a nuclear waste facility. The tribe opposed the bill and it did not become law.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Photo from Facebook

The new ranking Democrat on the committee is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona). He's been a strong supporter of tribal issues since joining Congress in 2003.

The committee is maintaining a Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs but will be adding another area of jurisdiction -- Insular Affairs, meaning the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Previously, Insular Affairs fell under different subcommittee.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will serve as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs in the 11th Congress. Photo from Rep. Don Young

The newly-renamed Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs will be chaired by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). He typically supports tribes on most matters, particularly those that involve complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is a strong defender of Alaska Native tribes and Alaska Native corporations.

The subcommittee's new ranking Democrat is Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-California). He's relatively new to Congress -- he won his first term in 2012 -- but he's been a consistent supporter of tribes.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-California) is the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. Photo from Facebook

“Our tribes are vital to the fabric of our community and nation, and I am proud to represent eleven tribal nations in California’s 36th district,” Ruiz said in a press release. “As the ranking member of the subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs, I will work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to find real solutions to issues facing our tribes like improving healthcare, education, and economic growth, while vigilantly supporting the sovereignty of all the nations of Indian Country.”

The change in the subcommittee's jurisdiction appears to have dramatically shifted its focus, at least on the Democratic side. Of the five Democratic members, three represent the Insular territories.

The Republican side looks different. Of the seven Republican members, only one comes from the Insular area.

But three Republican members are from California. On the Democratic side there are two, so the subcommittee now has an unprecedented California tilt.

As it stands now, there are no representatives from New Mexico, Oklahoma or other states with large tribal populations. Other than Bishop and Grijalva, both of whom will serve ex-officio on the subcommittee, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) --- who got into trouble last year for referring to Native Americans as wards of the federal government -- is the only member from a Western state with a significant Native presence.

However, Democrats are still planning to add two members to the overall committee. So it's possible that the subcommittee's makeup will change in the coming days.

The full list of members of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs follows:
Don Young, Alaska, Chairman
Dan Benishek, Michigan
Paul Gosar, Arizona
Doug LaMalfa, California
Jeff Denham, California
Paul Cook, California
Amata Coleman Radewagen, American Samoa, Vice Chair
Rob Bishop, Utah, ex-officio

Raul Ruiz, California, ranking member
Madeleine Bordallo, Guam
Gregorio Sablan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Pedro Pierluis, Puerto Rico
Norma Torres, California
Raul Grijalva, Arizona, ex-officio

Tomorrow's meeting will be organizational in nature. It takes place at 9:45am in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building.

“Promoting the responsible development of our domestic energy resources, active management of federal lands, greater collaboration with our state, tribal and local partners, and examining federal regulatory overreach into these areas will be at forefront of the Natural Resources Committee agenda in the 114th Congress,” Bishop said in a press release earlier this month.

Committee Notice:
Full Committee Organizational Meeting (January 28, 2015)

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