Lawmakers have undone a 2017 rule-change that was widely criticized by hunters and anglers concerned about the threat of public land transfer or disposal
This week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership encouraged House lawmakers to reverse a 2017 measure that made it easier to transfer or sell off public lands.
“Considering the benefits they provide to local communities and the nation—including outdoor recreation opportunities, clean water, and abundant wildlife habitat—America’s public lands continue to increase in value,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Congress should not be in the business of finding new ways to get rid of our public lands, and we applaud measures proposed by House lawmakers that recognize public lands are national assets, worthy of conservation.”
In its first day in session, the House of the 116th Congress passed a rules package that did not include language widely criticized by hunters and anglers last Congress.
The original rule-change—made by a 40-vote margin on the first day of the 115th Congress—overturned a requirement under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules to offset the cost of any transfer of federal land that generated revenue for the U.S. Treasury, whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing, or other activities.
In other words, for the past two years, public lands—even those producing billions in revenue for the federal government—had no official value and thus were vulnerable in terms of possible transfer to the states. House rules passed on Thursday did not carry this provision forward.
Once again, if lawmakers want to give federal land to a state or local government or tribe, they have to account for that loss of revenue.
“This indicates that public lands are on firmer footing in the 116th Congress,” says Fosburgh. “We encourage all our lawmakers to restore or create policies that will help keep public lands in the public’s hands.”
This story was updated on January 4, 2019.