Flickr: Bureau of Land Management
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3.3 million acres of public land are at risk of falling into the hands of developers and energy companies, thanks to a new bill put forward in Congress. H.R. 621 is the work of Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, and slates public lands in 10 U.S. states for sale.
After the recent approval of a new rule that makes public land monetarily worthless, congress now has an easier path to “dispose” of the land. Though public lands provide 6.1 million jobs and an annual $646 billion in revenue, the rule forces the Congressional Budget Office to consider public lands as providing $0 to the budget. This means any bill put forward to sell public lands will face less argument based on revenue. Which is exactly what Rep. Chaffetz and the others who created the rule were going for.
The chances of this bill and similar acts getting through the legislative process are frighteningly likely. The Senate, House of Representatives, and executive branch are all dominated by the Republican party, which has a less-than-stellar track record of protecting public lands.
Another bill seeks to eliminate jobs on public lands. H.R. 622 would get rid off BLM and Forest Service law enforcement positions. Instead, grants would be given to states to hire their own law enforcement to control the lands. Another way to dismantle public lands, this would introduce privatization and erase a core mission of protecting land for the good of all.