America Didn't Want All That Pretty Federal Land Anyway. Thanks, House GOP!

See? Tyranny!

While most attention on the House of Representatives this week was focused on Republicans' failed attempt to get rid of "ethics," which are only for little people anyway, the House did manage to slip through a fun rules change that will make it a lot easier for the government to sell federal land off to the states, which can then manage it however they want. Ideally, if you're a Free Range Crazy, that would mean the states would then sell public land to good decent ranchers, oil companies, and miners, as God intended. It's a pretty neat trick, and could pave the way for a glorious future in which We The People won't be burdened by having too much wilderness on our hands any more. The provision was the brainchild of Utah Republican Rob Bishop, the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and it would work like this:

Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, any transfer of federal land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury — whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities — has a cost. If lawmakers wanted to give such land to a state, local government or tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow.

Bishop authored language in the new rules package that would overturn that requirement, saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

In essence, the value of all federal land is now effectively set at $0, so there's no need to make up for any revenue lost when transferring that land to a state. Nifty, huh? For some crazy reason, a bunch of nanny-state Democrats think it might not be such a great idea to give away huge tracts of our natural heritage, probably because they are pagans who worship Gaia. Ranking Democrat on the committee Raul Grijalva of Arizona said in a statement before the vote,

The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd [...] This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.

Clearly, Grijalva has never read the Bundy Family version of the Constitution, which your anti-government folks insist says the federal government can only own lands for forts, naval bases, and for Washington DC. Sure, maybe no court has ever upheld that interpretation, but that doesn't mean House Republicans can't act like it's real.

Thanks to a particularly charming loophole, ThinkProgress points out, since the move "applies only to House rules, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature. It is effective immediately." Now, bills to actually transfer land from the federal government to the states would still have to make it through the Senate and be signed by the president, but with the new wrecking crew coming into office, that may not be much of a restraint. The Washington Post offers a straw for conservationists to grasp at, at least:

While the official GOP platform endorses the idea of transferring federal land to the states, neither President-elect Donald Trump nor Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), his pick to head the Interior Department, embrace that approach. Zinke quit his post as a GOP convention delegate this past summer over the issue, and Trump expressed opposition to the concept a year ago in an interview with Field & Stream magazine.

“I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble?” he said at the time. “And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”

That's awfully reassuring -- looks like the preservation of public lands will depend on whether the president-elect is in the mood to be consistent with positions he's taken in the past. That's one hell of a guarantee.

Now don't go packing up the Suburban with guns and heading out to take over a federal wildlife refuge just yet, kids, because at least some Republicans in the Senate are unlikely to go along with the idea, if only on budget hawk grounds. It's also worth noting that even in the West, state governments may not go along with the idea of taking on the responsibility of managing large new tracts of land. Remember that when wild-eyed Bundy fangirl Michele Fiore sponsored a bill calling on Nevada to take control of federal land in that state, the Assembly rejected it by a huge margin. Similarly, even when the Arizona lege passed a bill in 2015 calling on the federal government to turn over public lands -- including national monuments! -- to the state, it was vetoed by Gov. Doug Ducey. A 2012 referendum calling for a similar land transfer was also rejected by Arizona voters, with almost 68 percent voting against it. Polling by the Center for Western Priorities showed 90 percent of voters in Nevada, Colorado, and Montana say they consider public lands an essential part of their states' economies, too.

You might almost think the public thinks public lands are a good thing, huh? Then again, the "public" has probably just been blinded by big government propaganda into thinking "nature" is worth having.

[WaPo / Think Progress / Buzzfeed / Arizona Capitol Times]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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