After a massive backlash, a Republican yanks his bill to sell off public lands

Source: Brad Plumer, Vox, February 2, 2017

In January, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a bill in the House that would direct the Bureau of Land Management to sell off 3.3 million acres of federally owned lands — an area the size of Connecticut. But this week, Chaffetz decided to yank the bill after a fierce backlash from hunters, sportsmen and women, and conservationists on both the left and the right. Privatizing public land, it turns out, is a lot harder than it sounds. … Conservationists and hunting groups noted that selling off even small parcels of land to private interests could cut off public access into national forests for hunters or campers. But perhaps more relevant, many groups seemed to see this as a gateway to a much bigger fire sale of federal lands down the road. The precise lands in play here were less important than the larger principles at stake. … In the end, Chaffetz backed down — it wasn’t just conservationists complaining about his bill; it was conservative gun owners and hunters too. It’s unclear if Republicans in Congress might return to the issue of transferring public lands later on. …

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Republicans move to sell off 3.3m acres of national land, sparking rallies
Source: Caty Enders, The Guardian, January 31, 2017

Now that Republicans have quietly drawn a path to give away much of Americans’ public land, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced what the Wilderness Society is calling “step two” in the GOP’s plan to offload federal property. The new piece of legislation would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”. But many in the 10 states that would lose federal land in the bill disagree, and public land rallies in opposition are bringing together environmentalists and sportsmen across the west. Set aside for mixed use, BLM land is leased for oil, gas and timber, but is also open to campers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts. … The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website. … Chaffetz’s proposal might in fact be in violation of the common-law Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that the federal government keep and manage national resources for all Americans. Courts have upheld the policy that sale or use must be in Americans’ interest. …