Public Lands News from the House )
February 7, 2007


Happy New Year!

For the first time in twelve years, public lands have been handed a bit of a reprieve.

In November’s election, some of the most belligerent anti-public land ideologues in Congress were voted out of office, while others stayed on to experience being part of the new minority-party.

In the House, the Democrats have renamed the former Resources Committee the Natural Resources Committee. The new chairman, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) has promised to protect the integrity of our environmental laws and public lands.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is now chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, the subcommittee under the Natural Resources Committee that oversees all legislation involving public lands. Any hearings for land exchange or conveyance legislation will occur in Grijalva’s subcommittee before going to Rahall’s full committee for amendments or debate.

In the February 6 issue of Environment & Energy Daily Rep. Grijalva said:

"I'm not a supporter of opening public lands for commercial development interests... The fact we've renamed the committee Natural Resources again shows it's not just for resource extraction, it's for preservation and conservation as well."

We are hopeful that this new philosophy will lead to better proposals for public lands. In almost ten years of monitoring legislated land trades and giveaways, Western Lands has observed that the bills that go through these committees are more often than not slammed through without scrutiny, and that members from both parties see these deals as having little consequence. Grijalva says he does not expect to preemptively sign off on bills such as small land exchanges involving federal property, but will give them the scrutiny they deserve:

"I'm not an automatic on land trades," he said. "My experience is sometimes it's been out of whack where the public good of a land trade hasn't been commensurate with the private gain of a land trade."

If you’d like to see what is happening now in the House Natural Resources Committee and its subcommittees, visit http:// resourcescommittee.house.gov/. Of course, you are always welcome to contact us for information regarding legislation the Western Lands Project is monitoring.

Next week: Changes for public land in the Senate.


Joanne, Janine and Chris

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