Rep. Chaffetz Withdraws Bill to Sell Public Lands

But another threat to public lands remains

Utah’s Representative Jason Chaffetz officially withdrew his bill HR 621, also known as the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017.

The bill, which you can read in its entirety, directed the Secretary of the Interior to “sell certain Federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, previously identified as suitable for disposal, and for other purposes.”

Conservatives and Sagebrush Rebel types have been pushing for federal land sales in the West for decades, and now that the political setup is overwhelmingly favorable to such actions, many in the outdoor community and beyond were extremely concerned about how this would affect our ability to enjoy our public lands as many of us have been doing for generations. Thankfully, public pressure and outreach from those groups got to Chaffetz’s office, and the Congressman announced on social media that he was withdrawing his own bill late on Wednesday, February 1st.

While the outdoor community is right to celebrate this victory, the Congressman introduced another bill this session that seems crafted to appeal directly to the same groups that would cheer the sale of federal public land to private interests. HR 622, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, aims “To terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and to provide block grants to States for the enforcement of Federal law on Federal land under the jurisdiction of these agencies, and for other purposes.”

In some parts of the West – including most of Chaffetz’s district in Utah – a movement of “Constitutional Sheriffs” has risen since the mid-1990s. Without solid legal or legislative backing, this group of law enforcement officials believes themselves to be constitutionally empowered as the highest law in the land, above both state and federal officials.

In the past, these sheriffs have refused to enforce federal and state environmental and preservationist laws they did not personally like or agree with, and removing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s ability to enforce their own rules, laws, and policies and potentially leaving them at the mercy of enforcement agencies that don’t want to enforce specific laws is, perhaps, just as great a threat – if not a greater one – to our public lands.

Other bills that currently threaten public lands include:

S 33 and S 132, which hobble the Antiquities Act (used by Presidents to establish National Monuments)

S 22 and HR 243, which prohibit the Antiquities Act from being used in the state of Nevada

HR 232, which transfers National Forests to states for logging.

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