The claim that House Republicans will sell off iconic parks and monuments to states is "bullshit," according to Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop.
The Utah Republican authored a rule change that designates federal land transfers as cost-free. The change — which passed the House this week as part of a broader rules package — makes it easier to pass bills that hand public lands to states and tribes.
Environmentalists and sportsmen have sounded the alarm, warning that it signals an impending "giveaway" of parks, lands, forests and monuments (Greenwire, Jan. 5). But Bishop told E&E News yesterday that such warnings are "all crap."
"I don’t have a specific move. I mean, this is not part of a strategy," he said. "It was a silly process of an accounting rule … which required me to find an offset for everything I did."
The Congressional Budget Office scores federal land conveyance bills by estimating the loss of revenue from activities like drilling, logging and grazing. Natural Resources ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has said that the score underestimates public land value; Bishop argues the opposite, saying that the CBO ignores the burden of public land on states and communities.
The rule change would allow the House to ignore the cost, at least as part of procedure. CBO would still estimate the cost of such bills, but lawmakers would no longer have to find a spending offset or get a waiver.
Bishop characterized the rule change as a common-sense fix to a "stupid accounting trick" that would help his committee move legislation more efficiently.
But Bishop has urged President-elect Donald Trump to undo some of President Obama’s monument declarations, and he echoed that call yesterday. He also reiterated that state and local governments would do a better job managing the land that now falls under the Bears Ears National Monument in his home state.
But Bishop said the rule change does not help efforts to undo that monument or pass his Public Lands Initiative, the bill he proposed last year as an alternative to a monument. It would have protected and developed parts of the Bears Ears area (Greenwire, Aug. 12, 2016).
"There would have been a score. I would have had to get a waiver. I could have overcome that hurdle anyway," he said. "All this says is I don’t have to go through the procedural stupidity."