House of Representatives passes public lands transfer provision
WASHINGTON — The 115th Congress capped its first day late Tuesday, Jan. 3, by passing a lands transfer provision that recalculates the costs of public lands transfers and eases current restrictions for shifting their oversight to individual states or private interests.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a national sportsmen’s group, criticized the measure, introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, and House of Representatives members who voted in support of it. In a release, BHA said the decision was “a vote to give away America’s public lands and waters, recalculating the costs of public lands transfers and easing current restrictions for shifting their oversight to individual states or private interests.”
It went on to say that “the provision would designate any transfer legislation ‘budget neutral,’ eliminating existing safeguards against undervaluing public lands, disregarding any revenue or economic benefits currently generated and paving the way for quick and discreet giveaways of valuable lands and waters – including national forests, wildlife refuges and BLM lands – historically owned by the American people.”
Currently, the Congressional Budget Office provides estimates of the costs of proposed public lands transfers by evaluating the economic impacts of existing uses such as energy development and logging, the BHA release said. It went on to say that multiple studies show that individual states are ill-equipped to shoulder the costs of managing lands currently owned by the public and, if they took ownership of these lands, would ultimately be forced to sell them to private interests.