WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2016 — Bills pending in the U.S. Senate and House would block the creation of new monuments and national parks, put state and private interests ahead of protecting America’s public lands, and effectively turn millions of acres of federal land in Utah over to industry profiteers.
Anti-public-lands extremists are trying to advance four bills in the Senate and House natural resources committees today despite public opinion or defeats in western state legislatures.
The three bills scheduled for a hearing are: Senate Bill 437, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); S.B. 1416, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.); and S.B. 3317, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The fourth bill that will be marked up is the so-called “Public Lands Initiative,” H.R. 5780, developed by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah). The bill would seize millions of acres of federal, publicly owned land in Utah and give it to state officials for mining and oil and gas drilling by private companies.
“These legislators may not look like the Bundy clan and their anti-government cronies, but in terms of their agenda for America’s public lands, they’re cut from exactly the same cloth,” said Randi Spivak with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Their ultimate goal is to steal land from the public trust, hand it to corporate polluters and extractive industries, and rob future generations of their chance to enjoy our country’s greatest gift — its wild places.”
The Antiquities Act was created by Congress specifically to allow the president to act swiftly to protect irreplaceable national treasures at times when Congress is unwilling or unable to do so. It was responsible for originally protecting nearly half of what are now our national parks; it is highly popular, with 80 percent of western U.S. voters supporting “future presidents continuing to protect existing public lands as national monuments,” according to a 2016 Colorado College poll.
Outside Utah the “land seizure” movement has stalled out in 2016. Outside the state, only one bill to hand over national public lands to a state passed, while 15 others failed.
“America would simply not be America without the Grand Canyon, Zion, and our amazing national forests, deserts and wildlife refuges,” Spivak said. “American voters are strongly opposed to turning them over to corporations, and Republican legislators should be very, very wary of embracing these extreme views.”