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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


Congress Considers New Energy Land Heist Bill

Louis Geltman


A few weeks ago, we wrote to explain how the public lands heist is evolving into new attacks on our public lands. And sure enough, fresh off its August recess, the House Natural Resources Committee this week began debating a bill to turn over control of huge areas on our public lands for massively deregulated fossil fuel development.

As we shared earlier, public lands opponents are recognizing that wholesale transfer or sale of public lands will always meet strong, bipartisan opposition. But they haven’t given up on the goal of privatizing public resources, and one way of doing that is to make changes in who determines the balance of uses on our public lands.

This week, the House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on H.R. 3565, the “Federal Land Freedom Act,” a bill from Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) that would transfer power to states to make decisions on oil and gas development on national public lands. The bill would give states, rather than the national owners of national public lands (us!), the authority to decide where and how energy development is allowed.

Now, you might still be thinking that this sounds reasonable. Maybe, for example, you live in a state that has pro-recreation and pro-conservation ideas about public lands, and you’re thinking that things might be better off (setting aside the effects on less enlightened states). But Rep. Black is way ahead of you on this—your state is only allowed, under her bill, to take control of energy development decisions on public land if it will lead to the same or greater royalties for the federal government, meaning that states must allow more drilling, or they’re no longer allowed to make the decisions; if your state wants to proceed more cautiously with development decisions, you are out of luck. This provision of the bill is also illustrative of the true intentions of the public lands heist. It’s not about truly respecting local input; it’s about eliminating environmental safeguards and balance among uses and tipping the scales in favor of extractive interests.

Please take a minute to write to your member of Congress and let her or him know that you see through this transparent attack on public management of public lands.