[Vision2020] Rule change makes it easier to send federal land to states
moscowcares at moscow.com
Sat Jan 7 01:46:20 PST 2017
And so it begins . . .
The slow degeneration of . . .
. . . to nothing more than two words . . . "Remember when . . . "
Courtesy of today's (January 7, 2017) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Rule change makes it easier to send federal land to states
House GOP removes major obstacle but stirs up opponents
Conservation groups are sounding the alarm over an obscure rule change made by U.S. House Republicans that they say makes it easier to transfer or sell federal land.
While setting the ground rules for the 115th Congress, Republicans included language that eliminates budgetary costs associated with public land transfers. The move means that any legislation in the House that proposes to transfer or sell public land would not have to meet the same standards as other legislation when it comes to potential costs to the federal government.
The Congressional Budget Office examines all legislation to see if its passage would increase the federal deficit. Because federal land tends to have the ability to produce income through activities like logging, grazing or mining, transferring ownership of it technically robs the government of future income potential and counts as a cost.
According to House rules, such costs - however modest - must be offset through new revenue like taxes or through spending reductions. So legislation that includes costs has a more difficult path to passage.
The language eliminating the requirement for public land transfer legislation was requested by Rep. Bob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee and a champion of giving federal land to the states. In a statement released by the Natural Resources Committee, Bishop confirmed the change is designed to ease disposal of federal land.
"It facilitates the transfer of land from the federal government to the local government where people will have a larger voice in the management of their lands," he said. "Washington bureaucrats don't listen to people. Local governments do."
Bishop and other public land transfer advocates insist that local governments such as states can better manage forests and rangeland and improve rural economies by ramping up extractive industries.
Conservation and sporting groups bitterly oppose transferring public lands to state control. They say the states won't be able to keep pace with costs associated with activities like fire suppression and would be forced to sell prime property, locking the public out of some of its favorite hunting, fishing, hiking and camping spots.
Brad Brooks of the Wilderness Society in Boise said the move shows Republicans intend to act on their position that the federal government should reduce its land holdings. A plank in the party's platform adopted last summer supports transferring federal land to the states.
"It took them all of one day to grease the skids to make it easier to sell public land, I don't think anybody is under the false impression that Congress is not going to try to sell or give away public land for the next few years," Brooks said.
Land Tawney, president of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in Missoula, Mont., said public land advocates will resist any attempts to sell the forests, parks or wildlife refuges they cherish.
"If it's a fight they want, they've got one coming," he said. "I'm betting on public lands, hunters and anglers."
The rule package was approved on a party line vote, 233 to 190 with all but three Republicans supporting it.
Those voting aye included Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who has been selected by Trump to serve as Secretary of Interior. Zinke has battled his own party over the issue. He resigned as a Republican convention delegate last summer over the inclusion of the public land transfer plank in the party's platform.
The rules package also was supported by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
McMorris Rodgers said the change was made in the name of efficiency and any legislation that may transfer public land would face robust public debate.
Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .
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