Chaffetz Withdraws Bill to Privatize Public Land

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Good news -- Utah congressman and Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has withdrawn the bill he introduced that would have privatized federal lands.

Last weekend, more than 1,000 sportsmen, outdoor business owners, and public lands supporters joined Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) in Helena, Montana. Wednesday afternoon, a rally in New Mexico drew hundreds more people, all protesting congressional attempts to sell off or privatize public lands.

The outcry was prompted in part by Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) introduction of a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands — an area the size of Connecticut.

While this is good news, I doubt this is the last we've heard of this.

Republicans, particularly western Republicans, have been chasing after the dream of privatizing federal lands for years. They say they only want to return the land "to the states" (it was never theirs) but in practice that would mean privatizing it.

Managing and maintaining federal lands requires an enormous amount of resources and jurisdiction that only the federal government can provide. If all of that land was suddenly dumped on individual states, there's no way they could afford to manage and maintain it. They would have to sell access to private companies to cover the cost of managing it, and they would probably privatize the management.

Proponents of this effort know states could never handle the cost and responsibility, but that's not their real goal. The goal is privatization and plunder. They look at federal lands and see dollar signs.

The desire to privatize public lands won't go away, but it's possible proponents of it will lose support now that Republicans control everything. There's no big scary Democrat in the White House now and the so-called "Patriot" movement is going to go into hibernation until the next Democrat takes office.