On Tuesday, Congressman Jason Chaffettz of Utah proposed two bills to the 115th Congress of the United States, both of which pose direct threats to public land on as many as ten western states.
The first bill, H.R. 621, aims “to direct the Secretary of the Interior to sell certain Federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, previously identified as suitable for disposal, and for other purposes.”
The brazen language of H.R. 621 is pretty self explanatory. If enacted, the bill would authorize the sale of 3.3 million acres of public land—land managed by both the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management—that Chaffettz and his cohorts in Congress deem “suitable for disposal.”
Chaffettz didn’t stop there. He proposed another bill, H.R. 622, that seeks to revoke funding from the law enforcement arms of the Bureau of Land BLM and USFS—a move that would gut essential agenicies that are already in dire need of enhanced federal assistance.
According to the USFS, law enforcement personnel are “an integral part of the overall management of the National Forest System that ensure prevention, investigation, enforcement, and program management requirements are fully integrated into all National Forest System resource management programs.”
They play a critical role in things like poaching prevention and land use regulation.
Proponents of the plan say that this responsibility will be assumed by local sheriffs, but conservation advocates like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Theodore Roosevelt Convervation Partnership mantiain that, if USFS and BLM law enforcement funding is depleted, large swaths of our Forest Service and BLM land will be transformed into unmanaged quagmires.
Anti-public lands advocates are currently directing their fight at lands west of the Mississippi, but every victory leaves them more emboldened, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t put the East in their crosshairs if they find success in their current endeavor.