Sportsmen for Public Lands: No on H.R. 621

UPDATE ON H.R. 621 / February 2, 2017

The article below served as a plea for sportsmen to speak out against the H.R. 621 bill that congressman Jason Chaffetz was pushing in an effort to sell off public lands across the country. However, he heard from sportsmen loud and clear and is withdrawing H.R. 621. 

Here’s what he had to say…

“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. The bill was originally introduced several years ago. I look forward to working with you. I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow. #keepitpublic #tbt

Well done, Sportsmen! Proof, once again, that we have a voice that can be heard loud and clear when we take action. Keep it up!

Originally Post January 31, 2017

Amidst all the fuss and feud over refugees, a new president, and the current state of our country, another battle is brewing that could have a big impact on millions of acres of public land across our country. It revolves around the H.R. 621 bill introduced by congressman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

Congressman Chaffetz released the following statement after reintroducing two bills dealing with the 67 percent of the State of Utah that is under federal ownership.

“It’s time to get rid of the BLM and US Forest Service police. If there is a problem your local sheriff is the first and best line of defense. By restoring local control in law enforcement, we enable federal agencies and county sheriffs to each focus on their respective core missions.

“The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands will free up resources for the federal government while providing much-needed opportunities for economic development in struggling rural communities.”

“Long overdue disposal of excess of federal lands,” he says. If that’s not a throat-punch to sportsmen, I don’t know what is.

H. R. 621 Powder River Basin, WY

3.3 million acres of public land are at stake when it comes to the H.R. 621 bill. Sportsmen need to take action and speak out against lawmakers on this one.

But here’s a closer look at the H.R. 622 & H.R. 621 bills…

H.R. 622 Bill Details:

H.R. 622, Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, first introduced last year, removes the law enforcement function from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service. Instead, the bill calls for deputizing local law enforcement, combined with block grant funding, to empower existing duly elected law enforcement offices to carry out these responsibilities. The bill, jointly sponsored by Utah’s Rep. Mia Love and Rep. Chris Stewart, also establishes a formula to reimburse local law enforcement based on the percentage of public land in each state.

 H.R. 621 Bill Details:

H.R. 621, Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, calls for the responsible disposal of 3.3 million acres of land identified by the Clinton Administration as being suitable for sale to non-federal entities. Encompassing just over one percent of total BLM land and less than half of one percent of all federal lands, these lands have been deemed to serve no purpose for taxpayers.  In Utah, some 132,931 acres of land are eligible for disposal.

Half of one percent of federal lands doesn’t seem so bad, does it?  I mean, it’s ONLY 3.3 million acres of land! Let’s put that into perspective: 3.3 million acres is roughly the same size as the State of Connecticut (3.5 million acres).   Don’t let the clever wording of their bill fool you.  This is a very large amount of land in question here.  Not to mention this would set a significant, and troubling, precedent for further sale of federally owned lands.

The bill seems to run in direct opposition to Interior Secretary appointee Ryan Zinke’s (R-Montana) initiatives. In his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Zinke said: “I am absolutely against transfer and sale of public lands. I can’t be more clear.” In the hearing Zinke said he admired Gifford Pinchot’s (the first United States Forest Service chief) approach to public land, which called for multiple uses including recreation, grazing, mining, and logging.

The Skinny on Bloated Government Spending

Rep Chaffetz suggests that selling these public lands will not only boost revenue for the Federal government, but also lower operating costs and “freeing up resources”.  We think there is a better way to generate a couple million bucks.

Start here…Rand Paul’s annual report on wasteful government spending ought to light a fire in you to want to make a phone call and sign a petition for sure!

Here’s a look at the wasteful taxpayer dollars Paul highlights in his report…

  • $24 million to help the Phillipines prepare for rising sea levels
  • $21 million to fund a “Hawaii Center for Asian Understanding.”
  • $6 million to renovate a cafeteria, only to permanently close it several months later.

Or what about the $500,000 taxpayer dollars that went to a study on whether or not smiling in a selfie makes you feel happier?  Is that more important than the preservation and management of our public lands?  Think we’re joking? Nope, it happened.

The list of wasteful government spending goes on and on. It’s absolutely ridiculous. See for yourself at: Rand Paul Report on Wasteful Taxpayer Dollars

H.R. 621 powder river basin Wy

Be careful what you hear! The promoters of these bills are quick to make these public lands appear to be useless, wastelands fit for disposal. That is simply not the case. Powder River Basin, Sheridan, WY

We’re wasting taxpayer money on ridiculous things, spending our country into a debt we can’t possibly get out of, and the best solution Chaffetz can throw out there is to sell off federal lands to raise a few million dollars, put some workers out of jobs, and severely limit the recreational enjoyment that millions of people get from these lands?  Who elected this guy?

Economic Development of Struggling Rural Communities

Once again, don’t let the wording of this Bill confuse you.  While Rep Chaffetz touts the sale of federally owned lands as a revenue-generator to help the little guy, that’s far from reality.   The minute these lands are sold to private interest groups they will be locked down from public access and robbed of every available resource in the name of turning a profit.  Sure, they may generate a few local jobs at first as infrastructure for roads, utilities or buildings are needed.  However as that work and those jobs dry up you’ll be left with what exactly?  3.3 million less places to enjoy the beauty of America.  All for what?  To please corporate interests that fund the campaigns of our politicians?

What Lands Will Be Sold?

So where exactly are these lands that are potentially facing disposal?  Specifics have not been released, but a look at the states and counties has been made public.

According to an article posted by the Men’s Journal, the following is a look at the acreage that could potentially be sold should the H.R. 621 bill go through.

State: Wyoming

County: Sheridan

The Potential Land: 35,200 acres of BLM-managed land in the Powder River Basin, which is just east of the Bighorn Mountains, popular with hikers, campers, horseback riders, and hunters.

State: Wyoming

County: Park

The Potential Land: 27,300 acres surrounding the Shoshone River, a popular fly-fishing stream in northern Wyoming. Most of the BLM-managed land in Park County is downstream of the town of Cody, which sits between the Big Horn, Owl Creek, Bridger, and Absaroka mountain ranges. Tourism is the town’s primary industry.

State: Oregon

County: Harney

The Potential Land: 44,000 acres in a county that’s home to Steens Mountain, a 9,733-foot peak that’s popular with campers and hunters, and Malheur National Forest.

State: New Mexico

County: Catron

The Potential Land: 25,000 acres that contain “cultural resources,” meaning it’s probably home to pueblo ruins. The land is most likely a giant tract southwest of the town of Quemado, and some of the land abuts the Gila National Forest, home to the endangered Mexican gray wolf, the Gila trout, and some of the best elk hunting in the U.S.

State: Colorado

County: Montrose

The Potential Land: 2,105 acres that is home to endangered species and “historic/cultural resources.” The surrounding area contains the Gunnison Gorge, famous for its rafting and fly-fishing trips, and Uncompahgre National Forest, which is home to elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.

State: Nevada

County: Elko

The Potential Land: 208,900 acres that contains endangered species, historic resources, and is home to “wetlands/floodplain.” BLM-managed land makes up a giant percentage of land in Elko County, but exactly what land is up for consideration is unclear, or what the effects might be.

State: Arizona

County: Mohave

The Potential Land: 23,525 acres with mining claims and historic resources. A comment attached to the description notes that the land is “classified as habitat for the Desert Tortoise (a sensitive species).”

Total Acres That Could Be Up For Sale, By State:

H.R. 621

Office of Rep. Chaffetz

Arizona: 453,950

 Colorado: 93,741

Idaho: 110,022

Montana: 94,520

Nebraska: 6,615

Nevada: 898,460

New Mexico: 813,531

Oregon: 70,308

Utah: 132,931

Wyoming: 694,200

Call to Action: How You Can Help

It’s time for sportsmen to go beyond posting rants on social media. We must take action. Sportsmen need to speak up and speak out against those that are working hard to take away from the opportunities we enjoy as hunters and outdoorsmen. After all – it’s our land.

Contact your House Representative: http://bit.ly/2jn1bwc

Contact your Senate Representative: http://bit.ly/2jn1KWE

Sign the Petition to Stop the Seizure of Public Lands: http://sportsmensaccess.org/

Politely let Chaffetz know what you think via Twitter:  @jasoninthehouse

Donate to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership: http://bit.ly/2jvFqVX

Join Backcountry Hunters and Anglers: http://bit.ly/2kKVAzI

Take your message to social media!  Share this post and those like it from other outdoors media outlets.  Be sure to use the hashtag #keepitpublic and let your voice be heard.

Comments

  1. Andrea Jaquette says:

    Great article!
    Here’s a petition link started four days ago. (Petition could be improved;not much info)
    I’ve written letters to my Rep.and to news, Rachel Maddow Show, to feature this before it slips under the wire.

    Reply
  2. Andrea Jaquette says:

    Here’s the link:
    link to change.org

    Reply
  3. Willard Neff says:

    This is ridiculous trying to sell our public lands.Our fore fathers fought for these lands it’s not right that there trying to take it away.Number one we didn’t create the debt we are in the government did so why should they take away our pleasures for what the did.They should stop helping other people in other countries and help out our people the American people.This country is messed up they would rather help other people then their own.I would sign my life away and stand of for the American people.Im an avid hunter I love fishing camping hiking and so do my five sons long wave the American flag in god we trust.

    Reply
  4. Lucia Beatriz says:

    It is interesting to note that Jason Chafetz introduced a previous version of this same bill only two years ago. Is this a bi-annual thing for him? Is he putting on a show first introducing a bill that won’t likely curry favor with a huge majority of his constituents to then withdraw it?
    Check out this link tracking the bill: link to govtrack.us
    And this from CSPAN simply tracking the path of that previous version… link to c-span.org
    Note that although media outlets say HR 635 is dead, nothing of the sort shows on the Congress website (go to ‘actions’ tab) : link to congress.gov

    Reply
  5. Melissa Birch says:

    I,ve heard that Chaffetz lied and the bill hasn’t been withdrawn…is this true?

    Reply
  6. Jon Patterson says:

    Be really careful regards Chafettz’s “withdrawal” of HR 621. We may well see it again in some other form. He has not withdrawn HR 622, which eliminates Forest Service cops. Forest Service cops, by the way, includes arson investigators, and fire is a very big problem in most of these places. I signed the petition and received an acknowledgement from my congressman. However, when I sent him a detailed email revealing just where I stood on the matter, I received nothing back. Typical politicians, tell you one thing, do another. The good politicians get chased out of D.C. pretty quick and only the wolf pack remains. I think we are in for a long fight over this, and I hope all you guys will hang in there and help keep public land public.

    Reply
  7. Andrea Jaquette says:

    HR622 is in committees now. Just yesterday I sent 9 postcards (letters can have two week delay due to bundling and security search). I sent two chairmen and ranking members of the committees plus my rep.
    I squeezed this on the back of postcards and printed them out. I said:
    Just mailed 9 postcards opposing HR 622
    “NO on H.R. 622 – Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act
    Termination of federal law enforcement officers on National Forest and BLM land will leave the land vulnerable to abuse and lawless behavior, tax state and local authorities and compromise American’s safety.

    Allow Forest Service & BLM to enforce their own laws and rules. Federal officers of forests are experts on crimes involving timber theft, poaching, archaeological resources, tribal treaty rights, endangered species, & wildfires. Local sheriffs may disagree with policies and defy enforcement allowing destructive and illegal behavior as has been evidenced in recent years.
    Local law agencies may be ill-equipped to cover vast new areas of rough, inaccessible terrain that Forest Service and BLM rangers currently enforcing the laws already know.
    American’s safety will be compromised in and around public lands.
    Local, state and federal law enforcement have a long successful history of cooperation.”
    Send to House Commottees on Agriculture(to Peterson and. Onaway),
    to Natural Resources (Grijalva and Bishop), subcommittees Federal Land (McClntock and Hana USA) and to Conservation and Forestry (Lucas and Fudge)
    Make them hear your voice!!! Call or write!

    Reply
    • Andrea Jaquette says:

      Here’s correct spelling on names above: Peterson, Conaway, Grijalva, Bishop, McClintock, Hanabusa, Lucas and Fudge

      Reply

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