Former President Barack Obama managed to protect more federal land and water than any other American commander-in-chief in history. Now, House Republicans have introduced a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of land – roughly the area of Connecticut – likely for the purpose of using it to drill for fossil fuels. How times have changed.
As reported by the Guardian, the bill has been introduced by one Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representative from Utah and a prominent Tea Party acolyte. The land is currently home to a wide variety of wildlife, including gray wolves, grizzly bears, and elk, and it’s enjoyed by hikers, campers, cyclists, and hunters.
The bill’s summary explains that it is 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.”
The Secretary of the Interior is in charge of maintaining America’s beautiful environment, including its publicly owned lands and waters. It is a government position that has yet to be filled, but it looks certain that Ryan Zinke will nab the post. As we’ve previously reported at IFLScience, Zinke – a former Navy SEAL commander – is a “moderate” climate change denier and a staunch proponent of the fossil fuel industry.
This is all rather convenient, as the land being put up for sale is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Among other things, they lease out parts of their territory for oil, gas, and timber. Now, it looks set to be completely ravaged by anyone who wants to get their hands on all those resources, and Zinke will be sure to happily approve.
This follows on from an earlier provision, pushed by Republican lawmakers on their very first day in session back in early January, which changed the rules as to how the cost of federal land is transferred to other ruling bodies. This may sound like a bit of legalese mumbo jumbo, but what it actually means is that it will be easier for congressional members to give away federal control of public lands.
Essentially, then, this first measure was designed to make it easier to sell off public land to private proprietors. This second bill, which Chaffetz is calling “phase two” of an overarching plan, marks the start of the selling off of the land itself.
Much of this has slipped under the public radar because the president and his cabinet have been busy making headlines for shutting down refugee programs, gagging federal scientists, resurrecting oil pipelines, pushing forward nationalist policies, and inventing Orwellian-like terminology at the drop of a hat.
Pay attention, America – your country is literally being sold off to the highest bidder.