The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957), which previously passed the Senate.
Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell said:
“The Competitive Enterprise Institute urges Members of the House to vote No on the Great American Outdoors Act, H. R. 1957. Only part of the bill is objectionable, but that part is highly objectionable in a number of ways. The first title that would begin catching up on the $20 billion maintenance backlog on our federal parks and public lands is long overdue. It was originally introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop with wide bipartisan support as a separate bill (H. R. 1225) and should be considered by the House as a separate bill.
“However, we strongly oppose the second title, which would turn the Land and Water Conservation Fund of 1965 into a trust fund not subject to annual congressional appropriation. It would authorize $900 million annually in perpetuity to be spent mostly on federal and state government acquisition of private land.
“The federal government already owns far too much land – 640 million acres or more than one-quarter of the country. It owns far more land than it can it can adequately manage and maintain, as is evidenced by the need for a special appropriation of $9.5 billion to address half the maintenance backlog.
“Federal land is a huge economic as well as environmental burden on rural counties. The federal government does not pay local property taxes, and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program provides only pennies on the dollar in compensation for lost property taxes. Taking more and more private property off the tax rolls will only exacerbate this problem.
“Taking $900 million in annual spending off budget is fiscally and institutionally irresponsible. Even more irresponsible is doing so without providing any spending offset.
“Wide private property ownership and secure property rights are cornerstones of America’s system of limited government and essential conditions of economic prosperity. Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars to buy millions and millions of acres of private land, Congress should be passing legislation to transfer substantial BLM lands and National Forests to the states and into private ownership.”