The Wilderness Society condemns the “Great Outdoors Giveaway”

Jul 26, 2011

Bill to give away our great outdoors to corporate polluters receives hearing


The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act today received a hearing in the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on  National Parks, Forest and Public Lands.

The legislation, introduced by U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), opens tens of millions of acres of pristine lands to corporate polluters. H.R. 1581 is really a “Great Outdoors Giveaway.” It gives corporate polluters and developers, who already have access to 76 percent of all national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, access to even more of America’s vanishing wilderness.

“The Great Outdoors Giveaway is a blank check to corporate polluters to destroy our land, air, and water,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “This risky legislation flies in the face of values the American people hold dear: that we should treasure, not squander, our lands and waters. Americans don’t want Congress to give away our great outdoors.”

The Wilderness Society, along with several other groups, has provided background on the Great Outdoors Giveaway bill here:

Background and details on the Great Outdoors Giveaway bill
Our Lands, Dangerously Out of Balance
Today corporate polluters and developers have access to 76 percent of National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, leaving 24 percent, less than a quarter of those lands, with some level of wilderness protection.  Under H.R. 1581, the Great Outdoors Giveaway, that percentage of protected lands would shrink even further, to just 12 percent, giving polluters and developers access to a whopping 88 percent of all National Forest and BLM lands.

Passage of this bill would throw the management of our public lands dangerously out of balance.  It tips the scales even further in favor of developers and polluters, and would destroy pristine wilderness that, once lost, is gone forever.

Giving a Blank Check to Corporate Polluters, Threatening Our Water Supply
This legislation would give away more than 60 million acres of public land to people who will pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe. National Forests provide drinking water for more than 123 million Americans. By opening an area the size of Wyoming to pollution, H.R. 1581 poses a real threat to clean water in many parts of the country.

Clean air will also suffer, because these forests and wild lands also play a critical role in filtering pollution and providing clean air to millions of Americans.

The Great Outdoors Giveaway, by the Numbers
More than 60 million acres of land would be opened to polluters under H.R. 1581.  That’s an area of land larger than the state of Wyoming which would lose protection and be opened up to the oil and gas industry, corporate developers and others.

More than three-quarters of the states would be impacted by this legislation, including 13 million acres of wild Alaska forests, nine million acres in Idaho, and nearly five million acres in California.  Click here to see how many acres are impacted in each state.

Our American Heritage at Risk
H.R. 1581 would remove protections that have been in place for decades from some of America’s most iconic lands, including the Red Rock deserts of southern Utah, California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Appalachians. The places that generations of Americans have come to know and love could disappear before our eyes.

Images of Threatened Lands Across the Country
From our western mountain ranges to our eastern forests, treasured lands across the country are at risk.  Click here to see images of some of the lands that would be open to corporate polluters and developers if H.R. 1581 becomes law.

The Great Outdoors Giveaway: What H.R. 1581 Does
Rolling back protections for nearly 60 million acres of unroaded National Forests: The bill would overturn the Forest Service “roadless” policy that protects nearly 60 million acres of roadless National Forest lands by prohibiting road-building and commercial logging on those lands.  H.R. 1581 would overturn this policy and open up these unroaded national forest lands to road building, commercial logging, and other destructive development.

BLM Wilderness Study Areas…going, going, gone?: H.R. 1581 would strip existing protections from nearly seven million acres of Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas that have not yet been considered by Congress for Wilderness designation. Passage of the bill would all but guarantee that tens of millions of acres of public lands and national forests currently protected would lose that protection and their wild land qualities forever lost.

Multiple use would be a thing of the past: The “Great Outdoors Giveaway” would also overturn a decades-old policy of balancing the myriad uses of federal lands. Under this policy, known as “multiple use,” land managers analyze federal lands to determine the best uses for each landscape.

Undermining Congressional authority:  Existing laws allow the Forest Service and BLM to identify and protect areas with wilderness characteristics from incompatible uses – authority that the H.R. 1581 would gut. As a consequence, Congress would likely not have the ability to designate as Wilderness many of the areas currently protected by the Forest Service and BLM because the lands would likely no longer possess wilderness qualities if opened to development by this misguided proposal.

Paul Spitler