Here are excerpts from Heather Hansman's 1-19-17 Guardian article entitled "Congress Moves to Give Away National Lands, Discounting Billions in Revenue":
"In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.
"At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development [...].
"Essentially, the revised budget rules deny that federal land has any value at all, allowing the new Congress to sidestep requirements that a bill giving away a piece of federal land does not decrease federal revenue or contribute to the federal debt.
"Republican eagerness to cede federal land to local governments for possible sale, mining or development is already moving states to act. Western states, where most federal land is concentrated, are already introducing legislation that pave the way for land transfers [...].
"The Congressional devaluation of national property is the most far-reaching legislative change in a recent push to transfer federal lands to the states. Because of the Republican majority in Congress, bills proposing land transfers could now swiftly diminish Forest Service and BLM lands across the country.
"'We didn’t see it coming. I think it was sneaky and underhanded. It exemplifies an effort to not play by the rules,' said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations at The Wilderness Society. 'This is the worst Congress for public lands ever.'
"Rowsome said he’s not exactly sure how the rule will be used, but he thinks the first places to come under attack might include areas adjacent to the majestic Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Those areas hold uranium and copper, respectively.
"Rowsome said he’s worried that sensitive tracts of public land, like the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, could soon be up for sale. Some 60% percent of Alaska is made up of national land, and the state’s representatives have tried to pass laws claiming parts of it for state use as recently as 2015. 'It’s an amazing ecosystem and worthy of protection, and it’s very likely that House Republican majority will open that up for drilling,' Rowsome said."
To read the entirety of Hansman's article, click HERE.