WASHINGTON — Undaunted by public opinion and political reality, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) held a congressional subcommittee hearing today on his so-called “Public Lands Initiative,” which would seize millions of acres of federally owned land in Utah and give it to state officials for mining and oil and gas drilling by private companies.
H.R. 5780, drawn up by Bishop and fellow Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, has been widely panned in Congress and by dozens of environmental groups, tribes and members of the public. Even Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, initially a strong supporter of Bishop’s bill, has now stepped away from the proposal.
“It took Bishop three years to produce a bill that literally no one wants except those who seek to profit from the destruction of these irreplaceable landscapes,” said Ryan Beam with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize a Bundy-like radical fringe of paramilitary, anti-government extremists that refuses to respect federal jurisdiction over any public land. Its aim is to steal land from the public trust, hand it to corporate polluters and rob future generations of their chance to enjoy these special places.”
Bishop’s and Chaffetz’s bill, aired today in the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, is an amalgam of the land-seizure views espoused by extreme western lawmakers and special interests, including the Koch brothers-funded American Lands Council, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Coalition of Western States and others. The principles driving this public-land seizure are the same as those at the heart of the argument posed by Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who led an armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon this year.
“Republican politicians should be wary of supporting the extreme views of the Utah delegation,” Beam said. “The American public overwhelmingly supports keeping public lands in public hands and is staunchly opposed to giving them away to corporations that strip lands of resources and leave pollution and devastation behind.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.