H.R. 2852, the “30 Million Acre Giveaway Act”
H.R. 2852, known as the “Action Plan for Public Lands and Education Act of 2011,” or the 30 Million Acre Giveaway Act, was introduced by House National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) last fall. It requires that the federal government literally give away, free of charge, five percent of the “unappropriated public lands” — defined to include national forests and BLM lands — to each western state. The amount of federal public land to be given away under this proposal would be roughly 30 million acres, or about the size of the state of New York. In other words, at a time of concern about mounting federal budget deficits, this proposal would give away, free of charge, tens of billions of dollars of real assets owned by American taxpayers to a select few states, including lands that harbor irreplaceable environmental, recreational, wildlife, wilderness and other natural resource and cultural values that are the heritage of all Americans.
The 30 Million Acre Giveaway Act would undercut a key purpose of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), a bi-partisan statute enacted in 1976, that states that “the public lands be retained in Federal ownership, unless as a result of the land use planning procedure provided for in this Act, it is determined that disposal of a particular parcel will serve the national interest.” FLPMA ensures that public lands belong to all Americans and their benefits are bestowed upon all Americans. The 30 Million Acre Giveaway Act seeks to turn this agreement on its head as it bestows the benefits of America’s public lands on a select few, without giving compensation to the rightful owners, the American people. As Harris Sherman, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the Department of Agriculture put it: “The notion that land held in trust for the Nation as a whole should be disposed of for the sole benefit of the residents of an individual state runs contrary to the principle that these lands are important to all Americans.”