FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2, 2017
Contact: Jess McGlothlin, 512-520-7104, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAFFETZ WITHDRAWS BILL ORDERING SALE OF PUBLIC LANDS
H.R. 621 Would Sell or Dispose of 3.3 Million Acres
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Thursday morning, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz withdrew H.R. 621, a bill ordering the Interior Secretary to dispose or sell more than 3.3 million acres of public land.
“The folks who try to transfer our public lands were once again overruled by those of us who hunt, fish, and float. Outdoorsmen and women across the West spoke up and got Rep. Chaffetz to withdraw his very misguided bill. This is what happens when we all band together and make our voices heard. We won’t stop until every member of Congress commits to keeping our public lands in public hands,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) stated Thursday.
Chaffetz had reintroduced the bill on January 24, stating, “The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands will free up resources for the federal government while providing much-needed opportunities for economic development in struggling rural communities.”
The reintroduction of the bill ignited subsequent rallies in many Western states. The 10 states to be affected by the bill were Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
According to Chaffetz’s website, H.R. 621, Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, called for the responsible disposal of 3.3 million acres of land identified by the Clinton Administration as being suitable for sale to non-federal entities. Encompassing just over one percent of total BLM land and less than half of one percent of all federal lands, these lands had been deemed to serve no purpose for taxpayers.
Upon reintroduction, Chaffetz’s office and Instagram account were flooded with protests from sportsmen and conservationists, and after a week of strong opposition, Chaffetz announced late Wednesday that he is withdrawing the bill.
AFFTA President Ben Bulis noted, “Representative Chaffetz found out first-hand how much sportsmen and outdoor enthusiast cherish public lands this week with the introduction of H.R. 621. The instantaneous public outcry should give pause to any elected official in the future that believes selling or transferring land owned by the citizens of the United States, is a good idea. We will hold politicians accountable for attempts to undermine and destroy the outdoor industry.”
“I am withdrawing H.R. 621,” Chaffetz stated on Instagram, posting a picture of himself with his dog, hunting in the mountains. “I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. The bill would have disposed of small parcels of lands Pres. Clinton identified as serving no public purpose but groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message. The bill was originally introduced several years ago. I look forward to working with you. I hear you and H.R. 621 dies tomorrow.”
Sportsmen around the country applauded the withdrawal Thursday morning, noting it as one small victory in a much larger battle for America’s public lands. However, the sister bill to H.R. 621, H.R. 622, Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, is still alive. The bill was first introduced last year, removes the law enforcement function from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service. Instead, the bill calls for deputizing local law enforcement, combined with block grant funding, to empower existing duly elected law enforcement offices to carry out these responsibilities. The bill, jointly sponsored by Utah’s Rep. Mia Love and Rep. Chris Stewart, also establishes a formula to reimburse local law enforcement based on the percentage of public land in each state.
With the death of H.R. 621, many sportsmen’s attention now draws to H.R. 622.
Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of Patagonia, commented, “This is the first occasion in my memory that hunters and fishermen have come together to defeat a bill that could lead to greater loss of our public lands. The threat will not end with the withdrawal of this bill – so let’s keep fighting!”
AFFTA advocates for and promotes the sustained growth of the fly-fishing industry. By igniting consumer demand for products and services, providing businesses the tools to be successful, and advocating for access, protection and restoration of fishing waters, we will continue to enhance the passion and profitability of the sport of fly fishing.