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Lawmaker withdraws bill to sell public land

03 February, 2017, 00:45 | Author: Eddie Kim

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) withdrew legislation Thursday 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. "I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow", added Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I'm a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands".

On Instagram, Chaffetz referred to those 3.3 million acres as "small parcels" of land that President Bill Clinton once identified as "serving no public objective".

Also on January 24, Chaffetz reintroduced House Bill 622, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, which will prohibit BLM and U.S. Forest Service officers from performing law-enforcement functions.

The gold medal-designated Blue River bisects this property, and its potential sale for less than $1,500 an acre to a non-federal agency soon generated concerns among local officials over the prospect of losing public access to it.

But with the uncertainty surrounding the Trump Administration's position on public lands and the Republican Party platform supporting the conveyance of some federal lands, this year the bill seemed more consequential. The first had the explicit aim to sell Federal lands; the second, to "terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management". 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.

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Environmental groups denounced the effort, saying Chaffetz is pushing an "anti-American public lands agenda" with the broader goal of privatizing natural treasures across the West, a statement from Oregon Wild said. The Daily will continue to track the proposed law's progress this legislative cycle.

"We are pleased to hear Representative Chaffetz has changed course on his effort to sell public lands and we thank him for listening to the voices of sportsmen and women", Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood wrote.

"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", the Utah Congressman said in a statement.

Set aside for mixed use, BLM land is leased for oil, gas and timber, but is also open to campers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The 10 states that would have been affected by passage of the house resolution were Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

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