U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he no longer wants to sell off public lands in Colorado, other states

Does this doggie look like he would ever do anything bad to your public lands?

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and his dog say they'll withdraw HB 621. (Instagram)

Does this doggie look like he would ever do anything bad to your public lands?

In an Instagram post late Wednesday (because Twitter is dying, I guess?), Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said he wouldn’t move forward with a bill that would sell off public lands in 10 Western states, including Colorado.

Chaffetz said the parcels identified in the bill were deemed not to serve a public purpose back in the 1990s, under President Bill Clinton, but he had heard from so many hunters and others who opposed the bill that he was withdrawing it.

“Groups I support and care about fear it sends the wrong message,” he wrote.

Chaffetz said he will withdraw the bill on Thursday.

The bill, which Chaffetz has introduced before, would have sold off 93,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property in Colorado and 3.4 million acres nationwide and put the proceeds toward the national debt.

BLM land can be leased for mining or grazing, and a lot of it is open to the general public. Lots of groups are interested in keeping it in federal hands, including Republican-leaning constituencies like hunters, not just conservationists.

There has been a movement in Western states since the 1970s to sell off public lands owned by the federal government or to return control to the states. Proponents say local government has a better idea of how land should be used. Opponents fear a lot of it could end up being sold off or its natural resources exploited with less regard for environmental concerns by cash-strapped state governments. And if it’s privatized, it won’t be available for hunting or mountain biking or whatever you like to do outside in nature.

The less extreme elements of this movement pass resolutions in state legislatures and lobby Congress for bills like the one Chaffetz is abandoning. The more extreme elements are represented by the people who staged an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last year.

Chaffetz also is the sponsor of a bill (the HB 622 referred to by some of the commenters on the post) that would disband federal law enforcement serving Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. Instead, states would get block grants to police federal lands themselves.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.