The US House of Representatives is voting on a “rules package” (PDF) for the 115th Congress. In an unprecedented maneuver, the bill includes an amendment that paves the way for Congress to give away or sell off American public land and energy resources.
The amendment in question, which was written by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, claims any legislation passed to dispose of publicly-owned land, oil, gas, or other mineral resources would be considered budget neutral.
The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:
“Less than one day in and Congressional Republicans are already greasing the skids to give away or sell off America’s public lands, forests, and wildlife refuges. What’s worse, politicians are using smoke and mirrors to hide the cost of stealing away our public lands, while ripping off American taxpayers in the process.
“President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee to run the Interior Department, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, have disavowed attempts to seize our public lands. This is their first chance to show how serious they are by standing up to attacks on our parks and public lands in the US House of Representatives.”
Revenues generated from US public lands benefit all Americans — for example, oil and gas production on US public lands is one of the largest non-tax sources of revenue for the US Treasury. Some politicians, including Representative Bishop, want to liquidate American public lands. This rule change aims to give Rep. Bishop and other anti-park politicians cover to do so without answering to the American taxpayers who stand to lose from their policies.
The Center for Western Priorities is “a nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization that serves as a source of accurate information, promotes responsible policies and practices, and ensures accountability at all levels to protect land, water, and communities in the American West.” Visit them online at westernpriorities.org.
In a separate release, Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, had this to say:
“America’s forests, mountains, deserts, rivers and other public lands are priceless, irreplaceable places treasured by people across the country. It’s appalling to see this new Republican-controlled Congress already tossing them aside as worthless.”