While Donald Trump and his administration try and build walls at American borders and airports, and white nationalists make their way into the National Security Council, one republican lawmaker attempted to take full advantage of the constitutional chaos by attempting to pass legislation that would transfer ownership of 3.3 million acres of public land to the States they were in, a direct path to easily sell the public land. That is, until the citizens of the 10 states in question voiced their opposition and brought the bill crumbling down.
I am withdrawing HR 621. I'm a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would… https://t.co/FLhLaiAzkw— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) February 2, 2017
According to The Washington Post, the bill, HB 621, or ‘The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act’ was introduced by US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, and if carried out, would have direct the interior secretary to immediately get rid of or “dispose of” slices of public land the size of Connecticut. Chaffetz said the public space has “no purpose for taxpayers.”
The land, which is currently maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is in 10 different states - Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
Chaffetz’s plan was widely bashed by environmentalists, sport-hunters and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. BLM land isn’t only used for fishing, hiking, hunting, preserving endangered species, and generally enjoying the beauty that America has to offer. The same land is already leased for timber cutting and oil and gas extraction.
“Last I checked, hunters and fishermen were taxpayers,” Jason Amaro, who represents the southwest chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said. Amaro is from New Mexico, where hunting and fishing brings in $650 million in economic activity annually. The same state stood to lose a public swath of land the size of Rhode Island.
Representative Chaffetz was, apparently, listening, and Thursday the politician pulled the bill off the shelf, because, as he posted on his Instagram account, he is a “proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands.” Chaffetz finished the caption off with the hashtag #keepitpublic.
And in a time when it feels like politicians and the people in power aren’t listening at all, opponents of Chaffetz bill were more than pleased to hear of it’s demise, but less than hopeful about the future.
“This loss would have forever robbed the American people of the amazing bounty these and all public lands provide,” Aaron Kindle, Western sportsmen’s campaign manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said. “Another good move would be to withdraw the recently approved House rule that devalues public lands and makes them easier to dispose of.”
There’s always more work to be done, but for now, 3.3 million acre of federal land will stay in the hands of the American people.