Heinrich, Lowenthal Introduce Bicameral Legislation To Protect Public Lands From Sell-Off Or Transfer

America’s Public Lands Act would prohibit any Interior or Agriculture Secretary from selling public lands and ban management transfers, except when authorized by Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 14, 2019) - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to protect and reaffirm the importance of America’s public lands, including national parks and monuments, wildlife refuges, and national forests. The America’s Public Land Act would prohibit any Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture from selling or transferring management authority of public lands to states or other elected officials, except when expressly authorized by Congress.

“From the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, public lands in New Mexico fuel our thriving outdoor recreation economy and sustain outdoor traditions that are the pillars of Western culture,” said Senator Heinrich. “We owe it to future generations to ensure these public lands stay in public hands.”

“This bill marks a step forward in a nationwide effort to keep public lands in public hands. It marks our determination to defend America’s last wild places, and to recognize public lands as critical sources of clean air and water, habitat for plants and wildlife, important areas for healthy outdoor activity and home to cherished Native American ancestral territory and cultural sites. We must ensure that our shared public lands never fall into the hands of special interests seeking to exploit them for short-term, private gain,” said Rep. Lowenthal. 

“Public lands belong to all of us. This bill will ensure that they remain open and are never handed over to special interest groups. We applaud Sen. Heinrich and Rep. Lowenthal for taking a stand to defend America’s shared public lands against those who would sell off our nation’s great treasures,” said Brad Brooks, Public Lands Campaign Director at The Wilderness Society.

Public land in the United States is iconic and irreplaceable, provides unrivaled outdoor recreational opportunities enjoyed by hundreds of millions of Americans, and strengthens the United States economy by powering a recreation industry that supports 7.6 million jobs and nearly $900 billion in direct spending annually. Public land also provides numerous other benefits to the people of the United States, including clean air and water, public health gains, and access to the outdoors. 

Because of this value gained from public lands, the America’s Public Land Act reaffirms that the policy of the United States is:
  • to retain public land in federal ownership unless the disposal has been authorized by an Act of Congress 
  • to retain management authority – including the ability to determine use– over public land, except in any case in which a non-Federal individual or entity is authorized by Congress to exercise management authority 
  • that retention of public land and the management authority over public land is in the public interest
Finally, the America’s Public Land Act reaffirms that without an Act of Congress, the management and ownership of America’s public lands must remain public.

The bicameral America’s Public Land Act is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and cosponsored in the House by U.S. Representatives Alan Lowenthal 
(D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Judy Chu (D-Calif.).
 
The legislation has garnered broad support, including small business owners, faith organizations, wildlife advocates, outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing groups, as well as conservationists. A full list of supporters can be found here.

A copy of the bill is available here.