Public lands create $646 Billion in economic stimulus and 6.1 million jobs. So why would we give them away?
Recent rule changes in the US House of Representatives (actually just one line, but an important one) basically establish the value of Federal lands at $0, so transferring public land to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”
They did this with no public input. Wonder who benefits from it? Think oil and gas for starters.
It means that they can transfer federal lands and not have to justify the loss of revenue to the public or the government. These kind of changes normally need to have a revue by the Congressional Budget Office which might raise a bit of an eyebrow at the loss of revenue that is not being offset.
What does it all mean?
The BLM, National Forests, and Federal Wildlife Refuges are all at risk. The BLM alone estimates revenue from federal leases at about $2 billion dollars. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates federal tax revenue from the recreation economy at almost $40 billion dollars. That is a lot of jobs and factories around the country that are at risk.
The lands are under federal environmental regulations currently. Not that many of us think those are strong enough now, but this ducks all responsibility.
The states stand to gain a little in the short term by selling off land for mining, drilling, and logging. In the long term they will be left with the catastrophes of spills, tailing pools of toxic liquids, and mudslides.
Who loses? The public, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts (including hunters, fisherman along with the runners, backpackers, hikers, birders, naturalists, biodiversity and anyone who just needs a beautiful place to sit. These transfers mean the end of “multiple use” clauses that allow people to use the land. We know this because it has happened before. Idaho sold off 100,000 acres of public land meaning NO access to those areas unless you are rich enough to buy them.
All this under the guise of listening to the “public”. Arizona voters twice voted away transfers of land around the Grand Canyon for uranium mining. So now the state can give it away without asking the public.
Other areas under attack: The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area of MN (copper mining), The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (oil anyone?) and whatever else comes to their minds.
What will it cost states?
More than they will make. Forest fires have been endemic for the last few years (hey climate change!). Wyoming actually said transferring public land to his state was legally and fiscally impractical. Firefighting costs run the forest service about $240 million a week, and most states don’t have the cash on hand to pay that. (and you can bet those companies that get access won’t pay that).
From public access to water quality, we stand to lose a lot. Contact your representatives in Congress and the Senate, both federally and locally, to let them know where you stand on this.