The 115th Congress spent the first day of its new session making it easier to sell off our public lands. On Tuesday evening, Congress passed a “rules package” which contained a provision (Section 3(q)(1) of H.Res. 5 (p. 35)) that makes it easier for the federal government to transfer public lands to the state.
During the past 2 years, Outdoor Alliance has been working hard to fight against the public land heist. Public lands provide access for millions of Americans to climb, hike, bike, ski, paddle, and camp every year. The campaign to transfer ownership of our public lands to state governments threatens our access to the outdoors. Worse, it is an attack on our American heritage as collective owners of some of the country’s most inspiring landscapes.
The provision, passed quietly on Tuesday evening, would enable public land transfers to be treated as ‘budget neutral.’ Typically laws are scored to see how they would affect the federal budget and their cost to taxpayers. This new rule will automatically score all land transfer measures as budget neutral.
This budgetary maneuver is designed to make it look like giving away public land would cost nothing. In fact, public lands are a large source of government revenue, second only to taxes. And furthermore, we know that our National Parks, Forests, and Wildlife Refuges are invaluable for the climbing, hiking, camping, paddling, mountain biking, and skiing opportunities they provide. This amendment essentially pretends that giving away public land has no cost to the American people, which allows certain legislators to pursue their stated aims of disposing of our public lands to the states where they will be under immediate threat of development and sell off.
The oddest thing about last night’s development is that a few weeks ago Congress passed a law to officially measure the outdoor recreation economy. How is the outdoor economy supposed to happen without public lands?
The House’s action yesterday is a troubling step toward dismantling the public lands system that is our American birthright. To protect our public lands, everyone who loves the outdoors must pay attention and must share their voices, loudly, so that our elected officials know there is a cost to their actions.
Take action now to write your member of Congress and tell him or her what public lands mean to you. Make sure they know that when they vote against our national heritage, they will hear from you. The tool below makes it easy to send a message to your elected official.
Want to do more? Donate to the campaign to protect public lands by ensuring Outdoor Alliance and our allies have the funds we need to track and respond to legislation quickly, and to make sure we can spread the word about the public land heist and ensure the public has an opportunity to share their voices and make a difference.