HARRISBURG –Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) and Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) have sent a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opposing a proposed rule change under consideration by the independent agency that would not only negatively impact the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), which includes portions of Warren, McKean, Forest, and Elk counties, but also the communities that host or are adjacent to the federal lands.
The proposed rule would allow the New York Stock Exchange to list Natural Asset Companies (NACs), a new type of public company that would hold rights over prescribed areas such as national parks, federal lands, and private land. However, unlike other companies that are created to provide services or produce items of value, a NAC is, according to the rule, “a corporation whose primary purpose is to actively manage, maintain, restore (as applicable), and grow the value of natural assets and their production of ecosystem services." A NAC could obtain rights to U.S. land and could then prevent that land from being used for the responsible development of natural resources, including fossil fuel extraction, mining, most logging and large-scale farming; existing rules prohibit NACs from doing such things.
Turning over land management control to NACs and their investors, leaving local stakeholders, landowners, and land managers out of the decision-making process, is not only impractical, but violates standing law and policy. Only Congress and state legislatures can assign management authority for their public lands. This rule change would, essentially, allow NACs and their investors – and nothing prevents foreign entities from being investors – to circumvent the legislative process and the rights of all American citizens.
NACs will not be sensitive to, or even be aware of, the unique qualities of the local communities in and around the ANF or the outsized impacts the NAC’s policies will have on those communities. They will operate with generic ideas of “sustainable” use on lands they do not own, lands with needs they don’t understand and lands they aren’t likely to use or visit.
For example, while forest fires are a problem on many national forests, this is not the case on the ANF. Ironically, the greatest threat identified by ANF management is the lack of young forest—meaning that more harvesting of older trees is necessary to yield a healthier forest and ecosystem. We’ve seen what has happened in other forests that have been improperly managed, with rampant forest fires plaguing many regions of our nation. We do not need to accelerate such problems.
In the ANF, most of the sub-surface property rights are privately owned and would be threatened by NACs, along with surface minerals, grazing, water use, food production, firewood permits, hunting and fishing, recreation…any use that NACs could control. Local tax revenues from these uses of the land would also be jeopardized by allowing private ownership by a NAC, a situation that could devastate many communities.
“This is just another under-the-radar attempt by radical environmentalists to impose their progressive agenda on the good people of Northwest Pennsylvania,” said Rapp. “If you want to speak with those who truly care about the health of the Allegheny National Forest, who know its impacts on the local economy, and want to see it thrive, start with your neighbors, those in your congregation and at your local supermarket. We cannot continue allowing the liberal elites and wealthy activists to run roughshod over our communities.”
“This proposed rule, should it be allowed to become effective, would allow a very small, elite group of wealthy individuals and organizations – including foreign interests – who want to control the land and resources of the U.S,” Hutchinson said. “Our government agencies should not offer the management of American land and resources to these entities for a price, allowing them to profit from it. This is unethical, illegal, and will open our nation to the risks of foreign control and interference.”
CONTACTS: Justin Leventry, Sen. Hutchinson’s office: Jleventry@pasen.gov
Jake Gillespie, Rep. Rapp’s office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Kathy Rapp
Pennsylvania House of Representatives