WASHINGTON, DC –A video released today features a live auction of the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even the Statue of Liberty to private oil, gas and development interests.
The stunt is remarkably close to the reality envisioned in Congress’s new joint budget resolution, which advances the sale or giveaway of the nation’s wildlife refuges, national forests, and other prized public landscapes.
“Our national forests and parks are said to be America’s best idea,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, spokesperson with Environment America. “But selling off our public lands is Congress’s worst.”
Along with Congressman Raul Grijalva, D- Ariz., the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Environment America originally organized the auction to highlight congressional attacks on the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law that has led to the creation of more than 150 national monuments across the country, from Devils Tower in Wyoming to the Grand Canyon.
But as life imitates art, perhaps congressional measures imitate NGO gimmicks. Not long after the event in February, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced a proposal to “convey” federal lands to state, local, and tribal governments, “without strings.” And last month, the U.S. Senate approved the plan offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to sell, transfer or exchange national forests, wilderness areas, and other public lands to state and local governments.
Like the Senate resolution,the joint agreement exempts national monuments, parks, and preserves from sale or transfer, but leaves national forests, refuges, wilderness areas, and other public lands in jeopardy. And like the House resolution, it states that the “federal estate is far too large,” and that state and local governments should be able to benefit economically from increased resource production on public lands.
Even if the budget resolution is adopted as written, additional legislation would be required to complete the sale or transfer of public lands. Environment America urged Congress to abandon any plans to sell off treasured forests and refuges.
“For more than a century, American political leaders have chosen to preserve precious landscapes for everyone to enjoy, not sell them to the highest bidder for the profit of a few,” said Elizabeth Ouzts of Environment America. “We urge Congress to stop attacks on our public forests, canyons, parks, and wild places.”