Lame Duck Land Grab Wedged Into Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 – Last night, House and Senate lawmakers added a federal lands package to the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2410, H. R. 4435) that would lock up hundreds thousands of acres of federal land and restrict natural resource production, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment Director Myron Ebell.

“The federal lands package added to the National Defense Authorization Act is a backroom deal that would lock up use of hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” said Ebell. “Locking up federal land so that it cannot be used to produce natural resources, such as energy, minerals, livestock, and timber, has a devastating economic effect on people in the rural West.

“Many of these federal land lockups could never be enacted on their own if debated and voted in the light of day. And this move comes at a time when the National Park Service cannot adequately take care of many of the National Parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon,” said Ebell. “The system has multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlogs. Although Americans love our National Parks, creating more and more new ones has overwhelmed the National Park Service—leaving many parks in poor shape.”

The provision would create eight new National Parks in ten states and expand seven existing National Parks, designating some 245 thousand acres in five states as federal Wilderness Areas and withdrawing another 289 thousand acres from natural resource production.

“This is what happens when secret deals are made in backrooms during lame duck sessions,” said Ebell.  “Members of Congress supporting this deal should be ashamed.” 

Note: If passed, this package would represent the largest public lands package advanced by Congress since the Omnibus Public Land Management Act in 2009, which was enacted when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.