Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rule easing public lands transfer concerns hunters, others

A change in U.S. House rules making it easier to transfer millions of acres of federal public lands to states is worrying hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts across the West who fear losing access. Lawmakers earlier this month passed a rule eliminating a significant budget hurdle and written so broadly that it includes national parks. President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Interior secretary, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, voted for the rule change as did many other Republicans. The Senate would have to weigh in on public land transfers as well. "Anybody who uses them for any kind of outdoor activity â snowmobiling, mountain biking, hunters, all that â they're very alarmed by all this," said Boise State University professor and public lands policy expert John Freemuth. "The loss of access that this could lead to." The rule passed by the House defines federal land that could be given to states as "any land owned by the United States, including the surface estate, the subsurface estate, or any improvements thereon." U.S. lawmakers have the authority to transfer those lands to states. Outdoor recreationists fear states would then sell the land to private entities that would end public access. Zinke, whose confirmation hearing to become Interior secretary is Tuesday, has a track record of opposing public land transfers. Last summer, he resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, which favors such transfers. "The congressman has never voted to sell or transfer federal lands and he maintains his position against the sale or transfer of federal lands," Heather Swift, a Zinke spokeswoman, said in an email...more

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