Congress can't hide: Chaffetz town hall overrun by people seeking answers on public lands

Credit: Brookings Institution, flickr.

Utahns loudly pressed Rep. Jason Chaffetz on the importance of public lands at a recent town hall meeting.

A raucous overflow crowd converged on a high school in Salt Lake County Thursday night to ask Rep. Chaffetz about issues facing the country and the state—prominently including the need to keep public lands public. THANK YOU for raising your voices! 


Of the 13 questions Chaffetz fielded before cutting the meeting short, three dealt with public lands—not to mention the numerous pro-public lands placards spotted in the crowd both inside and outside the auditorium. 

The first person who spoke to Chaffetz at the meeting asked for more transparency in public lands matters, referring to the congressman's recent vote to gut a Bureau of Land Management rule that ensures the public is involved in decisions about drilling, mining and logging on our public lands. 

Chaffetz has said he is pressing President Trump to reverse Bears Ears National Monument, and that was the subject of the second question, posed by a Utahn concerned about turning public lands over to private interests. 

Later, another person in the crowd pressed Chaffetz on the importance of tribal sovereignty in Bears Ears. Chaffetz previously worked with Rep. Rob Bishop, a perennial nemesis of public lands, on a plan called the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) that recognized the need to protect the region, but did not include full input from tribal partners. This pushed a coalition of tribes to seek the presidential monument designation Chaffetz and Bishop are now trying to repeal.  

At one point, in an attempt to quell a hostile crowd, Chaffetz mentioned his withdrawal of H.R. 621, a public land takeover bill that drew heavy criticism from constituents. But he had no compelling answer for questions about his other anti-public lands proposal of the last couple weeks, H.R. 622--to completely eliminate law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. 

Stay tuned for more on developments around Rep. Chaffetz and other anti-conservation attacks from lawmakers—including how you can show up and make your voice heard. 

Rock art in Bears Ears National Monument, whose vast array of important cultural sites is threatened by vandalism and looting. Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).