Keep Public Lands Public

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H.R.621 and H.R.622 would be the first steps toward us, the American citizenry loosing access to publicly owned federally managed lands.

As a long time backpacker, new hunter, and someone who's fondest childhood memories are of visits to national parks with my family, this is an issue that is very dear to me. If you or anyone you care for has ever gone camping, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, rafting, bird watching, kayaking, backpacking, hiking, 4 wheeling, or if you just care that there is a place you can go and listen to the wind instead of traffic, then it affects you too.

If you’ve enjoyed any of these activities, then you likely did so on public lands. As of now, you and I and every American citizen is an equal owner to tracts of land set aside for your enjoyment, recreation, and appreciation. They go by different names, including National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, National Historic Sites, Recreation Areas, etc., but the moral of the story is that you legally own these lands and, up to now, they have successfully been held in trust by the federal government, which is legally required to protect them from damaging exploitation and development. Most of these lands were set aside at the beginning of the 20th century by Theodore Roosevelt, who faced stiff opposition from expansionists and corporate interests for the creation of the current federal public land framework. It should also be noted that the US is the ONLY nation on the planet with such well-established and unrestricted access to such lands.

There are currently two bills before Congress that open the door for privatizing and developing the land that is part of your heritage as an American:

 H.R 622 seeks to remove public lands from the jurisdiction of federal agencies (the Forest Service) and turn it over to state control. The issue here is that states do not have the budget to manage and protect public lands, and even with the best intentions, will be forced to sell them off. This has been the case in every past example of similar actions. For more details, look into why Texas has almost no public property. Additionally, state agencies do not have the legal mandate to prevent permanent damage from industrial use, which at present is permitted, but closely regulated.

H.R 621 is an even more blatant attack, as it directs the Secretary of the Interior to directly sell off existing public lands in 10 states to the highest bidder. It stands to reason that those bidders are most likely to be developers and industrial interests, but regardless of who buys it, it’s no longer yours and mine. Nothing ruins a walk in the woods like a row of ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

In truth, this should not be a political, blue/red issue, and this message is not intended to be a larger commentary on any of the other actions of the current administration. The only arguments for these two bills can be very quickly exposed as thinly veiled attempts by extractive industries to gain less restricted access to some of the last undeveloped pieces of land in the country-land that is yours and mine to either protect and enjoy or loose forever. Simply put, if you are not an executive of an oil or gas company, this is a loosing proposition for you.

Largely for his creation of the national forest system and work to preserve the legacy of America’s natural beauty. Teddy Roosevelt’s face is carved into Mt Rushmore with the likes of Washington and Lincoln. What would be an appropriate memorial for anyone who would support the destruction of our inheritance so that a few oil executives can buy another yacht? Thank you so much for your help protecting OUR public lands.



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