House Drops Plan to Sell Public Lands

In Instagram post, sponsor Jason Chaffetz says he'll withdraw bill.
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In Instagram post, sponsor Jason Chaffetz says he'll withdraw bill.
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It's not clear exactly which lands would have been affected by H.R. 621. (Photo by Stan Shebs)

The House of Representatives will drop a bill that would have sold off 3.3 million acres of public lands, the bill's sponsor said Thursday morning.

In an Instagram post, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that he would withdraw H.R. 621 from consideration on Thursday.

"I'm a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands, wrote Chaffetz. "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."

Outdoor nonprofits and companies rallied against the bill, which would have sold off a swath of Bureau of Land Management land across Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. In a letter signed by CEOs of more than 100 outdoor brands including REI, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, and Black Diamond, the Outdoor Industry Association urged public officials to reconsider the plan.

"This is not a red or blue issue. It is an issue that affects our shared freedoms," they wrote. "Public lands should remain in public hands."

A companion bill, H.R. 622, would strip the BLM and Forest Service of their law enforcement functions, turning those over to local officials instead. Chaffetz's message did not mention it.

Chaffetz and fellow Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop have been at the heart of the land-transfer movement, seeking to sell off federal holdings or put them under state control. In January, Bishop spearheaded a change in Congressional Budget Office Rules requiring that federal land transfers not be considered to have a cost to the government, thus making them easier to implement.

Soon after Black Diamond founder Peter Metcalf said that Outdoor Retailer, the industry's largest trade show, should leave Utah if the state's politicians continued to fight for the sale and transfer of public land.

"Utah is really ground zero for the worst public lands policies," Metcalf told the Denver Post.