Day one in the new Congress? House Republicans set the stage to give away the public lands that belong to ALL Americans. That includes National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments and more:

A new rulewritten by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), establishes as fact that any legislation to dispose of public lands and natural resources would cost taxpayers exactly $0. This paves the way for the new Congress to get rid of vast swaths of public lands — all at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Under Congressional Budget Office (CBO) accounting rules, the House is required to account for the cost of any legislation it considers. Now, the House does not need to even estimate any financial losses from giving away public land. Bills to dispose of public land will skip several steps in the normal legislative process, coming up for a vote without any discussion of the costs and benefits. The House approved the rules change by a vote of 234 to 193 on Tuesday.

It has long been the goal of Republicans to give away what belongs to all Americans to the billionaires that fund the GOP. It is part of the Republican Party platform. Because this move is a House rules change and not actual legislation neither the Senate nor the President need to sign off on it. It is fiat, effective immediately. The actual language is here.

The immediate impact of the rules change is that lawmakers cannot raise a budgetary point of order if a land transfer bill comes to the floor. Under existing House rules, any measure that costs the U.S. Treasury money must be offset by either budget cuts or a revenue-raising provision.

Oh, and by the way, hammering the CBO seems to be all the rage among Republicans at the moment. The House Republican leadership has ordered the CBO to NOT take into consideration the $9 TRILLION deficit that will arise within 10 years of repealing the Affordable Care Act. If the CBO were to actually score the move honestly the Republicans sham of caring about the deficit would be exposed. But that’s another story.

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.”

One of the continual Republican deceptions when it comes to public lands is that surrounding communities bear a significant financial cost because of the surrounding public lands.Never do they discuss the benefits the local communities from recreation and tourism income, the watershed processes, to quality of life and so on.

public lands

I live in a small Western town literally surrounded by public lands including a stunning new National Monument. Our economy benefits hugely from those lands. Most Western communities do benefit from public lands. I’ve written about this before. The Outdoor Industry Association  studies this every few years and continually estimates that outdoor recreation on public lands accounts for a $646-billion industry that supports 6.1 million direct jobs. Here in New Mexico we estimate outdoor recreation on public lands contributes nearly $4 billion to our economy supporting tens of thousands of jobs. And keep in mind this doesn’t account for ecosystem services. The Republican take on this is total bunk.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to fellow Democrats urging them to oppose the rules package on the basis of that proposal.

The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd,” Grijalva said in a statement. “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.”

This is the ultimate in corporate welfare. A strong majority of Americans continually show support for the public lands that belong to all of us. Even in the West this support is incredibly high. It seems to be only the Republican leadership and a few radicals who want to give our heritage away to their billionaire buddies. Contact your Congressional representatives and express your support for America’s public lands.

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