WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, a bipartisan bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senator Heinrich, a member of the committee, led a bipartisan group of senators, including U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), in introducing the legislation earlier this year.
Originally authorized in 2000, FLTFA embodies the concept of "land for land" using the proceeds from land sales to acquire key lands without the use of taxpayer money.
"This common sense program achieves the dual goals of conservation and economic development," said Sen. Heinrich. "In New Mexico, we've seen how well FLTFA works. These funds have been used to protect land at Aztec Ruins National Monument, the Santa Fe National Forest and the Elk Springs and La Cienega BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. As a sportsman, I especially appreciate FLTFA's role in protecting critical wildlife habitat. Outdoor recreation is a growing part of New Mexico's economic vitality, and FLTFA helps our state preserve the places that draw visitors from around the world. The program takes a balanced approach to public land in the West, and as a result it has a long history of bipartisan support."
"FLTFA is a common-sense program that provides an important land management tool in public lands states," said Sen. Heller. "This legislation will allow the federal government to sell appropriate public lands for growth and opportunity, while providing a way to protect the high-priority conservation lands. I'm pleased to join Senator Heinrich on this legislation, which is a great example of the right way to balance conservation and development."
"In a state like New Mexico with so much federal land, this bill is an important tool for ensuring local economic development along side strong protection of historic and wild places," said Sen. Udall. "The committee's approval shows the commitment of the Senate to improving the way federal lands are managed, increasing public access and strengthening local economies."
Specifically, FLTFA allows the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service in the western United States to use the proceeds from sales of certain federally designated areas to protect lands of exceptional conservation value. In practice, this has resulted in a reduction of the number of acres managed by the federal government, but an increase in the conservation value of public lands. FLTFA has also assisted in better land management practices by disposing of isolated or difficult to manage parcels identified by the public land management agencies themselves.
Additional cosponsors of S.368 to reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act are Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill is expected to be scheduled for a full vote on the senate floor.