Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue
Though recreation on public lands creates $646bn in economic stimulus and 6.1m jobs, Republicans are setting in motion a giveaway of Americans’ birthright.
In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.
At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.
In addition to economic stimulus from outdoor activities, federal land creates revenue through oil and gas production, logging and other industrial uses. According to the BLM, in 2016, it made $2bn in royalty revenue from federal leases. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates federal tax revenue from the recreation economy at almost $40bn.
Ignoring those figures, the new language for the House budget, authored by Utah Republican representative Rob Bishop, who has a history of fighting to transfer public land to the states, says that federal land is effectively worthless. 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.”
Essentially, the revised budget rules deny that federal land has any value at all, allowing the new Congress to sidestep requirements that a bill giving away a piece of federal land does not decrease federal revenue or contribute to the federal debt.
Republican eagerness to cede federal land to local governments for possible sale, mining or development is already moving states to act. Western states, where most federal land is concentrated, are already introducing legislation that pave the way for land transfers. ..cont’d
They’ve been trying to do this for years and must assume it’s now or never. Let’s make it
N E V E R !!!
N E V E R ! ! !
N E V E R ! ! !
Conservationist Terry Tempest Williams puts herself on frontline of climate fight
Last modified on Wednesday 11 January 2017
A longtime advocate for public lands, Terry Tempest Williams has been at the forefront of fighting for conservation. This year, she stepped into the firing line.
One cold day last February, Terry Tempest Williams, a prominent environmental author and advocate, stepped into Utah’s Salt Palace to begin her unlikely career in the energy industry.
Salt Palace, Salt Lake City’s largest convention center, was hosting a federal oil and gas lease sale, at which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would auction off 45,000 acres of public land for oil and gas extraction.
The BLM, the nation’s largest landlord, sold drilling rights to 810,000 acres in 2015. While that may sound like a vast area, it’s barely a postage stamp for BLM. Energy companies currently hold leases to more than 30m BLM-managed acres nationwide.
Williams had arrived with a cadre of protesters, who charged that drilling the parcels – and burning the fuel buried beneath them – would damage the land and contribute to dangerous climate change. Though Williams’s history of civil disobedience included more arrests and climate marches than she could count, she’d begun to feel she wasn’t doing enough. She’d come to the Palace to attempt a new form of activism, to further exercise what she called her “moral imagination”.
Williams filled out a bidder registration form and sat down in the front row, among representatives from Silver Spur Resources and Turner Petroleum.
A BLM agent approached to warn her that she could be prosecuted for misrepresenting herself as a legitimate energy bidder….cont’d
"..... Two faces; one for love and another for the DMV". -- Between The Two, by poet Kenji Liu
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