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Federal Lands Transfer Bill Withdrawn

Facing backlash from hunting and angling groups, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz withdrew legislation that would have transferred millions of acres of federal lands to state governments in the West. But news wasn't good for other environmental bills.
February 3, 2017, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Patrick Lienin

"Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) withdrew legislation Thursday [Feb. 02] that would have transferred 3 million acres of land from federal to state ownership, citing objections from constituents who complained that the move would limit access to public hunting and fishing grounds," reports Juliet Eilperin for The Washington Post.

In addition to limiting access by the public, the land transfers would have affected the "$646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs," reported The Guardian (posted here) last month.

Chaffetz's change of mind may give encouragement to individuals and groups who have demonstrated against other proposed legislation.

"The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act [of 2017], which would have shifted federal holdings to state governments in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming, prompted an outcry among hunters and anglers’ groups," adds Eilperin. 

Introduced three weeks after House Republicans enacted a rule change to make it easier to sell off federal land, the measure prompted two separate rallies in Santa Fe, N.M., and Helena, Mont., this week that drew hundreds of people opposed to the measure.

I am sensitive to the perceptions this bill creates in the current environment,” Chaffetz wrote in his letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Indeed! Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney offered the following response to the news:

“Representative Chaffetz should never have introduced this ill-conceived bill, but the instant and overwhelming response by sportsmen and women forced him to listen and ultimately abandon H.R. 621, which would have seized millions of acres of public lands. His fellow lawmakers should take note of the ire and rapid response by hunters and anglers. We aren’t going away.

However, the news may be more of the exception when it comes to legislation of interest to environmental and outdoors groups.

On Feb. 1, the House approved the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule using the Congressional Review Act. The Senate followed suit on Feb. 2.

"President Donald Trump is now poised to be the first president in 16 years to sign a regulatory repeal resolution," reports Bloomberg News.

It will be only the second rule overturned by the Congressional Review Act -- and for Republicans it’s just a start. They have a long queue of other rules they want to repeal the same way. 

Hat tip to Mike Keenly.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, February 2, 2017 in The Washington Post
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