The dust has only just settled on last week’s 33rd hearing in Congress on the Benghazi tragedy, an issue which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) admitted is being used as a political weapon. Now, our elected officials are taking up another dog-and-pony show, this time concerning America's public lands.

At issue is Reps. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopZinke picks fight with key Dem at an odd time House GOP and Puerto Rico governor agree on statehood vote Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report MORE (R-Utah) and Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartHatch suggests 611 for new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline GOP lawmaker on Khashoggi killing: 'Journalists disappear' all over the world Trump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women MORE’s (R-Utah) “Federal Land Action Group,” which is holding its second meeting.


Unlike an actual committee hearing, which involves witnesses with multiple perspectives on an issue -- even the special committee on Benghazi has at least a shadow of bipartisanship with seven Republicans and five Democrats participating -- the Federal Land Action Group is made up of only legislators and witnesses who share an anti-public lands, anti-conservation ideology.

Missing from the witness table is the perspective, held by a strong majority of Americans, that managing our national public lands is something that the U.S. government does well. According to a recent survey from Gallup, for example, 68 percent of Americans are satisfied with the job the government does managing national parks and open space.

Bishop and Stewart’s group is another unfortunate indication that Cliven Bundy’s views about the federal government and our public lands have leeched into the mainstream political dialogue. Bundy is the outlaw rancher who started an armed conflict with government employees after refusing to pay over $1 million owed to American taxpayers in outstanding grazing fees.

Bundy’s view on government and lands are extreme to say the least. He doesn’t recognize the federal government “as even existing,” and believes that the government cannot, should not, and does not have the right to manage national parks, forests, and grasslands on behalf of all Americans. Bundy’s perspective is one with extremist roots espoused by supporters of a movement in Utah and a handful of other Western states that is attempting to seize American public lands.

While Bundy may not be participating in person at the Federal Land Action Group, his perspective is sure to be strongly represented. Nevada County Commissioner Demar Dahl will be present. Dahl, an old friend of Bundy’s, expresses strong support for the rancher’s cause, saying Bundy is a “a strong and moral person” who “decides what needs to be done and how, and where he stands.”

But in the end, the Federal Land Action Group is little more than a distraction; an attempt by some members of Congress to pretend that they are taking action on important issues facing the American West.

Instead of continuing this sideshow, Bishop and Stewart should dissolve the Federal Land Action Group and start doing the hard work of legislating.

That means holding real hearings and working to build coalitions to pass real legislation that solve problems and helps the American people. Bishop and Stewart can begin by restoring the immensely popular and bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund. They can fix the broken way we fund fighting wildfire. And they can find solutions to protect America’s natural and cultural heritage by protecting lands and supporting the growing outdoor recreation economy.

All three of these policy ideas have bipartisan support and can easily pass before the end of the year. In the process, they may just help to restore Americans’ confidence in our elected leaders in Washington.

Zimmerman is the policy director at the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities.