January 6, 2017 – This past Tuesday when House Republicans passed a rules package, the approach towards the Ethics Office caught most of the public’s attention. Yet, while that item did not pass, what did pass was a substantive change that would drastically ease the transfer of public lands.
Under the new rules the House passed, no longer will bills that transfer ownership of federal public lands have to make up the lost income that the lands would have provided to the federal government, funding derived from logging, energy extraction, and other activities. The new rule essentially sets the value of America’s public lands at $0. Yes, that’s a “zero.”
With this new rule in place in the House, no longer will the income generated by the public lands to be transferred need to be offset with either new revenue or cuts elsewhere in the budget. No longer will there be any financial considerations at all as the bill zips through Congress skipping any consideration of costs – a hurdle encountered by virtually every other bill on the Hill.
As American Hiking Society is focused on completing trails – and sometimes even advocating for the purchase of lands for that purpose – this rule is likely to take us in the opposite direction. We can’t imagine selling public lands across which much beloved hiking trails travel but that’s a threat that just became real.
American Hiking’s work with this new Congress is going to be more challenging than ever. I encourage you to stay engaged. We will need your voice to be heard in the coming months. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. And if you feel so moved, take action by making a donation to American Hiking Society to support our work to protect not just hiking trails but the very lands beneath them. None of us can do this alone, but together we can protect the places you love to hike.