We’ve been talking about the Public Land Heist for a while. That’s the effort to take our national public lands and dispose of them – by transferring them to private interests or state governments, or outright selling them off. Last summer, we shared our take on the future of the Public Land Heist and predicted that straight up sell-off bills were going to get less common, while sneaky attacks on public ownership, on the public process, and on funding for public lands were going to get more common.
The big sell off bills (like H.R. 621, which proposed selling off 3.3 million acres outright) got tons of public outreach, and lawmakers backed off fast. But the new tactics of the Public Land Heist are worse in some ways. And they are harder to detect. And it’s harder to get people fired up about them, because they are just more complicated.
We’re thinking of these threats as 3-D’s: diminishing public input, defunding parks and public lands, and deregulating to give industry a pass to the front of the line. Outdoor Alliance member group Access Fund calls this approach “death by a thousand cuts,” and that couldn’t be more accurate.
This week, a proposal going around the House hit on basically all of these D’s. The bill, titled “Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Waters Act,” would take lands away from the public and give them to states, who would not just have the ability for unchecked development, they would actually be incentivized to develop them. States that choose to “forego energy development altogether” would be charged a fee. And all these areas – including Wild and Scenic Rivers, Roadless Areas, and priceless public lands – would be exempt from laws that protect against polluters and ensure a public process.
The proposed legislation is a discussion draft so it’s really early stages, but the ideas were about as crazy as they come. We submitted testimony with our partners at the Outdoor Industry Association for the hearing this week (you can click here or at the letter at right, if you want to read it), and we will definitely keep an eye on this. If you aren’t already, sign up to get action alerts from Outdoor Alliance. We do our very best to send only really good, relevant stuff and to make it easy to understand and take action on the issues you care about.