Congress once again toys with extremist agenda
Congress may not be able to get it together to deal with issues like crumbling infrastructure or deadly opiate epidemics, but when it comes to trying to strip Americans of their unique public lands heritage, there’s no shortage of legislation.
The Center for Biological Diversity is warming there are four bills pending in the House and Senate natural resource committees that could affect public lands — and not in a good way. One of the measures would block the creation of new national monuments and parks, while others could enable the transfer of federally managed public lands to state governments.
The three bills scheduled for a hearing include:
- Senate Bill 437, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); which would bar presidents from creating national monuments without congressional and state approval;
- S.B. 1416, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.);,which would prevent the federal government from reserving any water rights in connection with a monument designation;
- And S.B. 3317, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), which would block the creation of new or expansion of existing monuments in 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, but that apparently won’t stop Congress from pursuing an extremist anti-public lands agenda.