WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2018 — The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will consider legislation Wednesday that would weaken environmental safeguards on, or outright give away, more than 630,000 acres of national forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands, clearing the way for private developers.
“These bills are shameless giveaways to private companies that want to make a buck off pristine public lands,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These lawmakers are completely out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, who have said repeatedly that they oppose this continued assault on our public lands.”
On Wednesday the committee will consider:
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- S. 1222, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), which would exempt 8,000 acres of federal land from laws requiring taxpayers to be compensated when federal lands are sold or disposed of. Based on news articles, a 2,400-foot-tall experimental solar chimney will be built on public land in western Arizona to generate electricity. A House companion bill, H.R. 2630, introduced in May by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), received a hearing and markup.
- S. 1481, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), which would give away more than 175,000 acres (273 square miles) of public lands in Alaska to private corporations. It would hand over or trade more than 130,000 acres (180 square miles) of the Tongass National Forest — the nation’s largest national forest — to private timber corporations. Another 50,000 acres of national wildlife refuge lands would be opened to privatization.
- S. 2206, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), which would remove protection from nearly 450,000 acres of national forest land in Montana. The lands have been protected for nearly 40 years as wilderness study areas; they include elk habitat and blue-ribbon trout streams and protect community watersheds. Removing protection would open the land to private developers for activities such as mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction.
Since January 2017 Republicans have introduced more than 100 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.