Public Lands

Threats to Public Land & Streams.     By Geoff Storm, Denver Trout Unlimited

Gunnison Gorge

Denver TU  – February 12, 2017

On January 3, the first day of the 115th Congress, the US House of Representatives passed its House Rules resolution. Contained amidst rules prohibiting photography on the House floor, and other points of parliamentary procedure, was a seemingly innocuous Rule entitled “Treatment of Conveyances of Federal Land.” The rule states that “a conveyance of Federal land to a State, local government, or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

In layman’s terms, this meant that a huge barrier to public land transfer had been eliminated.

Heading into the legislative session, there was tremendous anxiety surrounding the effects that the incoming Congress and Presidential administration would have on public access to the backcountry. In Colorado alone, over 1/3 of the state, or about 24 million acres, is held by the Federal Government, and for the first time since the 1970s and 80s, there was a push to transfer large portions of these areas into state hands to be managed by local land boards.

The arguments against state land transfer are well documented, and I’d need fare more than a few hundred words to be able to summarize them here. For a full discussion, I recommend that you watch Randy Newberg’s Youtube channel on the subject.<> However, the transfer of Federal Lands would likely mean decreased access to thousands of miles of trout water across the west.

Activity continued when Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced two bills. The first, H.R. 621(“Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act”) expressly aimed to sell more than 3.3. million acres of Federal lands; the second, H.R. 622, intends to “terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management” on federal lands.

Last Wednesday Chaffetz withdrew HR 621<> (via Instagram, of all places), saying “I am withdrawing HR 621. I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would have disposed of small parcels of lands Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message.”

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