GOP chairman seeks $50M to transfer federal land

GOP chairman seeks $50M to transfer federal land
© Moriah Ratner

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is asking budget writers to set aside $50 million to account for the costs to transfer federal land to state or local governments.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHouse Natural Resources chairman pledges to retire after next term Trump's monument plan still shrouded in secrecy Greens threaten lawsuit over potential monument reductions MORE (R-Utah) put the request on a wish list sent Friday to the House Budget Committee.

In his request, Bishop argued that “poorly managed federal lands create a burden for surrounding states and communities.”

He reasoned that divesting the federal government of its land would be good for the federal budget. It would reduce the costs of maintaining that land, he said, as well as the payments the federal government makes to local and state governments for tax dollars they can't collect.

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“To allow for these conveyances to start immediately, we ask that you build in $50 million into the budget to cover possible impacts on offsetting receipts,” Bishop wrote. “The vitality of these lands, after being conveyed from the federal government, will reduce the need for other taxpayer-funded federal support, either through Payments in Lieu of Taxes or other programs such as Secure Rural Schools.”

The budget request does not mention any specific land transfers Bishop or others might propose.

But conservation groups quickly slammed Bishop’s request to use taxpayer money to help get rid of federal land.

“Make no mistake: America is wide awake to these assaults and will not let a bully like Chairman Bishop use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to ensure oil, gas and mining industries can lay waste to the forests, parks and refuges that belong to us all,” Matt Keller, senior director of conservation with the Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

Bishop and other Republicans have been working on numerous fronts to reduce the federal estate.

In January, the House passed an internal rule to make it easier, from a budgeting standpoint, to offload federal land.

Under that rule, lawmakers can no longer raise formal objections if legislation does not properly account for the future income that the government would have gotten from transferred land.

Bishop and his allies are facing significant headwinds in their push to reduce federal land ownership.

Republicans have traditionally supported such proposals, but both President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke oppose any large-scale land transfers and Zinke has promised to fight against them.

Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFive memorable moments from Hillary Clinton’s newest book Clinton says she mistook Chaffetz for Priebus at Trump's inauguration Curtis wins GOP primary for House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz MORE (R-Utah) withdrew a bill to sell millions of acres of federal land after significant protests.