One of the 43 amendments passed by Senate Republicans in Thursday’s vote-a-rama was a sop to extremist state legislatures in the west who have been pushing states’ rights bills that would allow the states to sell off the federal public lands within their borders. That’s right, congressional Republicans—federal representatives—want to allow states to seize and sell off the nation’s heritage.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) amendment, which passed by a vote of 51 to 49, is now part of the Senate’s nonbinding budget resolution. The proposal would support and fund state efforts—which many argue are unconstitutional—to seize and sell America’s public lands. These include all national forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, historic sites, and national monuments.Murkowski’s amendment, which would need further legislation to become law, follows a similar proposal from House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) to spend $50 million of taxpayer dollars to fund the sale or transfer of U.S. public lands to states.
That’s right—they want to use our money to fund the loss of million and millions of acres of public land. That’s not a popular position out here in the West, where 59 percent of voters are opposed to this transfer. Westerners are also okay with the federal government, for the most part: “approval ratings for the Bureau of Land Management—48 percent approve—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—73 percent approve—the U.S. Forest Service—73 percent approve—and the National Park Service—76 percent approve.” A whopping 94 percent of people reported that their last visit to a national public land was a positive experience. That 94 percent would be outraged if they were blocked from accessing those lands in the future by fences and no trespassing signs.
That’s a point outdoor groups have been making in fighting state efforts in Colorado, Idaho and Montana and the rest of the West. This comment by a Montana outfitter, Addrien Marx, really sums it up: “Montanans flatly reject any effort to privatize lands that belong to all Americans and provide the backbone to a $3 billion state outdoor economy, an economy that keeps small towns like mine alive.”
That goes for the vast majority of Westerners who aren’t Cliven Bundy. Access to public lands drives our economies, not to mention the way of life for many. Just something else Republicans want to destroy.