Yosemite National Park
flickr, Arian Zwegers (adapted with permission)
Story update: Since we first published this story in October, Congress has pulled Yosemite National Park from a logging bill that would have opened vast swaths of forest to logging companies. The bad news is that lands in nearby Stanislaus National Forest are now being targeted. Get the full update on the bad logging bill here.
Oct. 24 - National Parks were closed for 16 days due to the government shutdown, but while visitors are locked out, Congress was busy trying to open Yosemite to logging - and other special public lands were being proposed for sale to local states for energy and mineral exploration.
Despite the shutdown, congressional committees held hearings. One on Oct 3rd drew attention to opening public lands, but not for visitors.
Here are the bad bills that Congress is still considering:
- Allowing logging in Yosemite! The Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act (H.R. 3188) would override bedrock laws and the courts to allow logging in Yosemite and other public lands, including wilderness areas.
- Selling 3.3 million acres of public lands. The House Natural Resources Committee is considering a bill that would not only open 3.3 million acres of public lands for sale, but would mandate them to be auctioned off. The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2013 (H.R. 2657) proposes to sell lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming to reduce the federal deficit. This is the result of a persistent threat from state governments
- Giving away our lands for oil, gas and mineral rights. The Small Lands Tracts Conveyance Act (H.R. 1633) would giveaway vast swaths of our public lands, including Forest Service, wilderness and BLM lands, to state, county and local governments for oil, gas and mineral rights and sales.
The irony is that recent park closures revealed just how important these places are economically.
For example, Utah was losing $4.4 million every day, prompting the state to pay almost $1 million out of their tight budget to reopen federal lands for the last six days of the shutdown. Utah is the state represented by Rep. Jason Chaffetz who proposed The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act bill.
While Congress debated reopening your beloved national parks, they simultaneously considered selling off those same special places. America’s wild lands should remain always open for the American people to enjoy them, and closed to those interested in logging, mining and drilling them.
View The Wilderness Society’s letter on the bills below: