Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz-R sponsored legislation in the US House of Representatives Tuesday that would allow the federal government to sell “excess” land in order to pay down the national debt. The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act would require the federal government to sell land that does not serve a public purpose. Utah Senator Mike Lee-R and Arizona Senator John McCain-R are introducing similar legislation in the US Senate. Governor Gary Herbert has indicated he likes the idea.
Chaffetz’s bill would order the Department of the Interior to sell 3.3 million acres, including 132,931 acres in Utah. Lands considered would not be useful for natural gas, petroleum or mineral mining, and would not be currently under consideration for wilderness designation.
Chaffetz has said the land available would be around one percent of lands under the Bureau of Land Management, and less than one half of one percent of federal lands. The bill would affect public lands in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, News Mexico, Oregon and Washington.
The plan was originally written in 1997 by the Clinton Administration. Chaffetz hopes this will made it more attractive to democratic representatives. It was not well received when it was originally introduced.
Chaffetz said, “While there are national treasures worthy of federal protection, there are lands that should be returned to private ownership. If the land serves no public purpose, and is ‘identified for disposal’ let’s return it to private ownership.” Utah’s outdoor tourism industry and vast public lands bring millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. Federal lands also provide access to hunting grounds and fishing waterways that could be closed under private ownership.
It is estimated the Utah acreage could bring about $16 million. You can view a map of the areas being considered by clicking here. Please note this map takes a few seconds to appear.
Opposition to the legislation suggests selling public lands is penny wise and pound foolish – like selling the house to buy food you have already eaten. Selling an asset to pay debt could be considered unwise. Once the land is gone, it’s gone for good.
Please take a moment and comment on this article below. Click on the subscribe button to receive an e-mail when Alison publishes new articles. Alison is also Salt Lake City Comfort Food Examiner. For a link to those articles, click here. For a link to all of Alison’s political articles, please click here. Thank you.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune, Provo Daily Herald, Representative Jason Chaffetz, Deseret News