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No to Federal Land Transfers

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For most of you, the issue of western public lands is probably not as important as the other horrors that is the Republican policy agenda. But for a westerner, this stuff is exceedingly important, whether you are a hiker or you are Cliven Bundy. Jason Chaffetz, the most principled man in Washington except for all the others, and his buddies want to transfer millions of acres of western lands over to the states, which would lead to both far more limited public access and vastly more industrial development. But this was a bridge too far for westerners and Chaffetz has been forced to shelve it, for now at least.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) withdrew legislation Thursday that would have transferred 3 million acres of land from federal to state ownership, citing objections from constituents who complained that the move would limit access to public hunting and fishing grounds.

The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, which would have shifted federal holdings to state governments in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming, prompted an outcry among hunters and anglers’ groups. Introduced three weeks after House Republicans enacted a rule change to make it easier to sell off federal land, the measure prompted two separate rallies in Santa Fe, N.M., and Helena, Mont., this week that drew hundreds of people opposed to the measure.

A wide array of outdoors groups praised the move.

Aaron Kindle, Western sportsmen’s campaign manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that his group appreciates “that Mr. Chaffetz listened” to those opposed to the bill.

“This loss would have forever robbed the American people of the amazing bounty these and all public lands provide,” Kindle said. “Another good move would be to withdraw the recently approved House rule that devalues public lands and makes them easier to dispose of.”

Katie McKalip, communications director for the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said in an email that its members and others “have sent a clear message, in no uncertain terms, that Americans greatly value our nation’s public lands and waters and that we will not tolerate actions by our elected officials that diminish them.”

Not sure I would praise him at all, although I get the need to do that publicly. It’s going to take continued pressure from westerners to stop this because Chaffetz and his merry band of Bundyites want this really bad.

Good win for now though.

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  • DamnYankees

    Shouldn’t the states, at the very least have to purchase this land, using state tax dollars? By transferring it from the feds to the state, you are denying the citizens of the 49 other states their proportional ownership interest in the land. Where’s the compensation?

    • Brett

      That’s why they did the rule change to revalue the lands at zero.

      • If it’s valued at zero, can I buy it for a dollar?

        OK I’ll make it two dollars but that’s my final offer!

    • The Lorax

      Exactly. You’d think anyone could sue if they sold it and would have standing.

  • Brett

    Thank goodness that a lot of Utahns are hunters, fishers, boy scouts and former boy scouts, and so forth.

    • The Great God Pan

      I know they helped defeat this but I can never really trust conservative outdoorsy types. Remember the Utah Boy Scouts who filmed their middle-aged leader toppling Jurassic-era rock formations?

  • jpgray

    It’s not only recreation, but jobs. For many of these states, use of public lands represents a big, probably in some cases the biggest, employer of “unskilled” labor. Giving it to the states for $0, as was recently enabled by Congress, means a jobpocalypse no matter what the outcome. Then you have headwaters in one state affecting land use in the next – this is just another in a series of poorly thought out, universally unpopular messes. It will have good ol’ GOPers-by-default from my old states of ID and MT marching next to tree-hugging crust punk weirdos.

  • Mike G

    Do the Bundys and their ilk really think they’ll be able to run cattle for free when federal lands are turned over to the states, and most likely, sold off to agribusiness or miners? Their entire whine seemed to be “I can’t exploit this land I don’t own and pay nothing,” unless I’m missing something.

    They sound like teenagers who support anarchy thinking thinking they’ll be able to take, use and do whatever they want, when in reality they’d get blown away by a property owner with a shotgun on the first day.

    • In this case they’ll get blown away by Acme Mining Company’s private security force.

    • Wapiti

      The Bundys and their ilk seem to believe that they’ll get the land.

      The vast majority of westerners who hunt, fish, hike, camp, or otherwise share in enjoying these areas realize that they will lose their access.

    • Two too many uses of “thinking”.

  • Murc

    Erik, do you have any thoughts on, in the wake of Trump, “Let’s hunt wolves to extinction” making a quiet but enormous comeback in much of the west?

    • DocAmazing

      That’s going to be interesting. Eliminating wolves will result in an explosion of the mouse population (the bulk of wolves’ diet) and very predictable outbreaks/epidemics of Hantavirus. Add in defunding of public health resources and the repeal of the ACA, and there will be a Southwestern rural die-off.

      • Mike Lommler

        Just because mice are a significant of a wolf’s diet doesn’t mean they are major limiting factor on mouse populations. Just look at the western states that don’t have large wolf populations. Hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, snakes… lot of critters eat mice.

        None of the above should imply that I don’t like wolves. They are an important part of western ecosystems and I would like there to be more of them, not less.

        – an Arizona-based wildlife biologist

  • efgoldman

    The protests about this bullshit got lost between the march and the immigration demonstrators, but it shows that if we can frighten a True Believer ideologue like Smarmyface, we should keep pushing and pushing and pushing.
    I have seen (anecadata) reports that house and senate aides are overwhelmed, their voice mailboxes are full and some shut off.
    Not all will respond as we might like, but some will, some of the time. They fear an energized electorate more than anything else.

    • DocAmazing

      I think that the protests were significant, but equally significant was a nastygram from arms manufacturer Remington.

  • Solar System Wolf

    While this is great news, it still depresses me that this is how it had to get done. The government doesn’t want to cross the good ol’ boys with guns. Recreational users like me, who don’t hunt, get no respect and no voice even though there’s probably a lot more of us.

  • For someone who claims to love being outdoors Chaffetz sure is ignorant of the fact that lots of people enjoy being outdoors and/or make a living by providing supplies and services to people who enjoy being outdoors.

    He must do all of his outdoorsing at exclusive clubs.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      He must do all of his outdoorsing at exclusive clubs.

      Maybe in the company of Uday and Qusay.

  • Marek

    I would love for the Dems to throw down a marker if this comes up again and say, “Just so you know, as soon as we’re back in power, we are going to take this land back for the purchase price, less whatever damage you’ve done to it.” At the very least, it would cloud the title a little.

  • Nick Conway

    The fact that that Chaffetz backed down so quickly in the face of backlash from the hunters makes me think this is a dead end for Republicans. This is the friendliest environment they will have for some time with both Congress and the Presidency, and trying to sell off only “marginal” lands. They might be able to nibble away at the edges of some public lands, but I don’t see how they will be able to sell off large chunks in the foreseeable future given how quickly this fell apart.

    The more likely route is just to deregulate, and open all the lands up for more and more subsidized resource extractions. Risks less of a backlash, and as long as it’s subsidized enough businesses will probably still be happy with it. Corporate welfare and all that.

    • Dennis Orphen

      Watt a great idea.

  • Hogan

    Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act

    GOT DAMN IT. Is there any way to put a stop to this shit?

  • liberal

    … the issue of western public lands is probably not as important as the other horrors…

    It’s more important than most of these other things, because unlike them, it’s irreversible.

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