The Republican-controlled Congress is moving to sell off public parks and take away the law enforcement capabilities of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service. On Tuesday, January 31 US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah introduced a new piece of legislation (Bill 621) would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the BLM.
Just before this bill was tabled Trump launched the first salvos of his assault on the EPA. Shortly thereafter the GOP started gutting environmental protections and consistent with Trump’s pipeline Executive Order the last remaining Dakota Access pipeline protest camp was raided.
This land is located in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. It is already subject to oil, gas and timber leases.
According to the Guardian, Environmentalists and hunters are resisting the bill with public land rallies.
The Guardian quotes Jason Amaro, who represents the southwest chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who calls the move a land grab.
“Last I checked, hunters and fishermen were taxpayers,” said Amaro, who lives in a New Mexico county where 70,000 acres of federal lands are soon going to be up for sale. New Mexico alone generates $650 million in economic benefits from hunting and fishing. The state stands to lose lose 800,000 acres of BLM land. Overall the lands in question generate billions of dollars of revenues for the states in which they are found.
Scott Groene, a Utah conservationist, said the state’s elected officials were trying to “seize public lands any way they can”, without providing Americans a chance to weigh in. If residents knew their local BLM land was being threatened, said Groene, “I’m sure the communities would be shocked”.
Chaffetz also introduced another bill that would strip the enforcement capabilities of the BLM and the US Forest Service. As explained by Bobby McEnaney of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the bill,
“hamstrings our ability to manage and ensure that our public lands are being kept safe, it’s a fairly cynical approach to how public lands can be managed.”
The moves may be challenged by the courts because they may be in violation of the common-law Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that the federal government keep and manage national resources for all Americans.
John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in Missoula, Montana, said the Utah representatives were pushing the bills despite their proven unpopularity.
“It’s not only an assault on our traditions,” Gale said. “It’s the idea that they’re stealing that from our children.”
GOP Trying to Kill the EPA
The GOP Starts Gutting Environmental Protections and Transparency
Trump’s War against the EPA has Begun
The Importance and the Power of Protest: Why We Must Stand Up to Trump
Pipelines Reborn: They’re Back Thanks to Trump
Camps Raided as Trump Moves Forward with DAPL
The Obama Legacy and How Trump Signals the End of an Era (Videos)
Trump’s Inauguration Met with Protests as Darkness Officially Descends