The sponsor of a bill that would have required the disposal of 180,000 acres of federal, public land in Idaho and Oregon as well as millions more acres elsewhere in the West dropped it overnight after outcry from sportsmen and others.
A Facebook message accompanying an image of Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz — dudded up in a camo coat, hat bearing a stylized elk, and carrying a hound — states that he withdrew House Resolution 621 because “groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message.”
The bill included 70,000 acres in the Beaver State and 110,000 acres in the Gem State. While some parcels are large blocks — – including 44,000 acres in Harney County — many are smaller, and often have impediments to their sale, such as mining claims, lack of legal access, ESA species, etc.
Showing that sportsmen need to be alert to attempts by both sides of the aisle to sell off our lands, the ground in Chaffetz’s bill had originally been identified in 1997 by the Clinton Administration as potential revenue sources to pay for restoration work in the Everglades, according to the Salem Statesman-Journal.
Rocky Barker at the Idaho Statesman called the Beehive State Republican’s “turnaround … remarkable.”
Chaffetz along with Rep. Bob Bishop are part of the movement to dispose of Forest Service, BLM and other public lands in the West, to the consternation of hunters, anglers and others who prize those lands for recreation and critter habitat, but Barker writes:
“Chaffetz now is sounding more like incoming Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He and his boss, President Donald Trump, have expressed opposition to transferring or selling federal lands on a grand scale.
“As a Montanan, Zinke will know there are times when public land sales and especially land trades make sense. But not with the lack of forethought that went into the Chaffetz bill.”
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which have been raising alarms over land transfers, offered a wary statement following the Congressman’s move, saying it amounts to winning a single battle in a larger war.
“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,” said Land Tawney, president of the Missoula-based organization. “Unfortunately there are those who will continue to perpetrate bad deals like this one. American hunters and anglers will be there every step of the way. Mr. Chaffetz took the first step. Now he needs to kill H.R. 622, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, which would eliminate hundreds of critical law enforcement jobs with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Our law enforcement officers are on the front lines of conservation and already do more with less. Let’s give them the resources they need to do their jobs.”