US Rep. Jason Chaffetz pulls public lands sell-off bill

McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM
McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area via the BLM

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

About 94,000 acres of the land targeted for disposal is in Colorado. Seven parcels totaling 560 acres are located in Larimer County.

The future of public lands has been in the spotlight post-election, especially after President [#45] picked Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke for the U.S. Secretary of Interior post. Some conservationists said Zinke’s voting record on public lands conflicted with his verbal opposition to selling them off.

Conservationists say public land preservation is crucial to Western lifestyle, recreation and environment. Others argue the government maintains too much land that could be more valuable if developed or handled by local authorities.

At his confirmation hearing, Zinke vowed to protect America’s public lands — and then headlines started cropping up about Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s bill.

Chaffetz has introduced similar bills in previous sessions, but some thought this year’s iteration stood a better chance in the Republican-controlled U.S. House and Senate. The crux of the bill was a 1996 federal report that identified 3.3 million acres of public land for potential transfer to states…

Strong backlash prompted Chaffetz to kill the bill last week, a decision he announced through an Instagram post.

“I am withdrawing HR 621,” read the post. “I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would have disposed of small parcels of lands Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message. The bill was originally introduced several years ago. I look forward to working with you. I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.”

Killing the bill was a good call, said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group. He added the 1996 report was a “complete hypothetical idea” produced back when the U.S. government was weighing funding options for restoration of the Florida Everglades.

“It speaks to just how haphazard and ill-conceived this idea was,” Nichols said. “Putting this hypothetical into legislation to mandate the sale of these lands — it was just stupid.”

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