Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

What’s the deal with these attacks on public land ownership?

My friend Andrew wrote on Facebook:
Tom – you are my trusted outdoorsman issue/policy guy :) What’s your take on this? It sure doesn’t sound good from here.
This being:  How Fishermen, Hunters, Bikers, and Hikers Are About to Lose Their Say on Public Land Use The Bureau of Land Management’s once bipartisan, “common-sense” planning 2.0 rule to give outdoor recreation a voice is now under fire. from MENSJOURNAL.COM

TS: One of a series of moves by House Republicans to thwart public use of public lands. No bueno. The good news is many outdoor groups are calling BS and fighting back. Over time I believe we will prevail until then it is #resist and #persist…

Andrew: ok thank you! Is there someone who is tracking the progress of stupidity like this so that citizens can weigh in with appropriate congresspeople? The outdoor coalition is pretty big and broad :).

TS: No single source at this point. Bookmark: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Outdoor Industry Association, American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Watch for press releases, policy updates and action alerts.

VA’s U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and U.S. Senator Mark Warner are usually pretty reliable on this stuff when they hear from folks. The key is they need to hear from folks as they are not on Committees that deal with this stuff. U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is new and not on relevant committees either. She would benefit from hearing your concerns.

From TRCP: Still Fired Up Over H.R. 621? Here Are Ten Other Threats to Public…

Andrew: One last question for you Tom – the bill that zeroes out the value of public lands, any idea what that is and where it stands? That one seemed a particularly onerous threat. Thanks much for the info friend!

TS:It was not a bill. It was a House Rule. It was agreed to and can and likely will be used to score legislation that includes or allows land disposal or transfer.

From WaPo: House GOP rules change will make it easier to sell off federal land – WASHINGTONPOST.COM BY JULIET EILPERIN

The pertinent language from the rules package reads in part; “requiring or authorizing a conveyance of Federal land to a State, local government, or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

It is tied, as you see to budget mechanics, an area to complex to try and discuss here. Suffice it to say it does pretty much what Ms Eilperin says…

And my friend Steve pointed out correctly: Also, the Senate has not passed any such rules change, so land transfer legislation still violates Senate budget rules without and offset.

Andrew: OK – I did see that article a couple weeks back, but I’ve read my quota of WashPo articles already this month – time to subscribe! Now the question I need to go find an answer to – “What is the process for the federal government to sell off public land?” Does the Senate have any say? Secretary of the Interior, or Agriculture for national forest land? No problem if you don’t know those answers, then again, I guess those of us who care about these things better figure it out.

TS: Congress (meaning House and Senate) can legislate the disposal of federal land. If legislation is signed by the President into law (enacted) then it is a done deal. And there are case where the sale or transfer may make sense. The Secretaries of Interior or Agriculture, may make recommendations for sale or transfer but those would need to go thru the legislative process and be enacted into law.

I spent many years looking at this and it is not cut and dry on what is good to transfer and what is not good to transfer. There are a variety of programs that deal with transfer that are beneficial to good public land management.

Andrew: Thanks a ton for that! Hoping I understand correctly :) basically for those of us with an interest in public lands, the merits need to be looked at case by case, but the specific parcels proposed have to go through some kind of approval by full House and Senate, correct? And we’d be lucky if we even find out about it unless its particularly egregious, given how they stuff everything into one giant POS – usually the spending bill that keeps the government open for business – and shove it down our throats these days. Helps to know the process though! And I’d offer a final guess that monument designations like Bears Ears and Katahdin/North Woods, are a whole different process than above since they are designated by Executive branch?

TS: Yes the transfer has to be enacted. Yes, the projects could be enacted in “must pass” bills. I have seen that cut both ways however with good projects being protected. Yes monuments are designated by the President and the authority to do so comes from the Antiquities Act. Which by the way is under attack. Bears Ears has the Utah delegation apoplectic…

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