January 4, 2017
Press Contact: Olivia Alperstein
Progressive Congress Statement: New GOP House Rules on Public Lands Would Leave Them Vulnerable to Destruction at the Hands of Private Developers
Washington, D.C.—The Republican Conference enacted a new House rules change which alters the way that Congress would calculate the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, making it easier to give away public lands, to then be exploited or even destroyed at the whim of private entities, including developers. The new provision would enable House Republicans to give away National Parks, Forests, Public Lands, Wildlife Refuges and other federal areas currently owned and used by the American people.
These public lands belong to all of us, including future generations, not to any political party or to Congress or to individual state governments, and it is incredibly disappointing that House Republicans would give away these public lands and leave them vulnerable to destruction by developers rather than preserving them for millions of Americans families and visitors to visit and enjoy. The principle upon which this rule change was made is weak. Local governments and state governments—lack the full resources and capacity to manage our national treasures and would instead allow them to sell off these lands to the highest bidder.
“This isn’t a matter of local and state governments controlling and managing lands—this House rules change leaves it open for local officials and states to sell off public lands to the highest bidder, which many officials will likely do, as they will not be able to afford the cost of maintenance and management. This change would make the impossible, possible: to bulldoze the Grand Canyon and make it a site for luxury condos,” said Dr. Gabriela Lemus, President of Progressive Congress. “These public lands belong to the people—because the people have public access to these lands, millions of families can explore nature and visit some of the most beautiful natural spaces in North America. With this rules change, all these lands will become vulnerable to destruction in the name of greed and profits. This land is our national patrimony and should belong to all of us, not to local or state governments, and certainly not to the vagaries of private developers. Private developers have long eyed our pristine wilderness cynically as areas for development—we cannot let Congress drop our natural treasures into their laps like this.”
Progressive Congress applauds Representative Raúl Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for boldly taking a stand against this attempt to take public lands out of the hands of all Americans and placing them at the mercy of a few government officials, to be used and potentially exploited for private profit instead of protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy. In his public statement on the rules change, Congressman Grijalva declared, “The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd...Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.”
Progressive Congress is grateful that we have Members of Congress like Congressman Grijalva who defend our natural landmarks as the American treasures that they are and who recognize the risks that such a rules change would entail.