By Spencer Neuharth
On January 24, a bill was referred to the House Committee of Natural Resources that aimed to get rid of over 3 million acres of public land. But because of the very loud voice of sportsmen and women across the country, on February 2, it will be withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor, Jason Chaffetz, a US Congressman from Utah.
Looking to dispose of federally owned lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, the bill was a direct threat to sportsmen and women. This land would have likely ended up in the hands of large natural gas and oil companies through “a competitive sale for not less than fair market value as determined by an independent appraiser.”
When outdoorsmen started to push back through calls and emails to representatives, along with social media posts and online petitions, our voice became heard. The most obvious place to see our presence was on Instagram and Facebook.
On Instagram, thousands of comments rained down on @jasoninthehouse’s recent photos. Users were flooding his notifications with hashtags like #keepitpublic and #publiclandowner while requesting that he reconsider his stance on the bill.
On Facebook, well thought-out posts filled up news feeds with information on how to defeat HR 621. A MeatEater post on the subject was shared over 7,000 times, another from Joe Rogan was shared over 6,000 times and yet another from Outdoor Life was posted over 2,000 times. And that’s not to mention the thousands of other every-day hunters and anglers who shared their own thoughts on the topic.
The noise was too much to be ignored, and Chaffetz announced around midnight last night that the bill will be destroyed. He said, “I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands. . . . I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.”
This is a huge victory for sportsmen and women, and should make everyone who has ever shot a gun, cast a line or stepped foot on public ground proud. For now, at least, public lands will stay public.
– Spencer Neuharth
Editor’s Note: Today is a big day for the #KeepItPublic movement. We’ve been talking about the threat of these public lands transfers/sales for some time and the proposals keep popping up. But this time hunters, anglers, hikers and campers stood up together and made it known that the disposal of our public lands is not acceptable – and we forced legislators to listen. I want to say thank you to everyone who called or emailed their representatives, posted on Instagram, or talked to friends and family about this issue. The halting of bill HR 621 is proof that we can make a difference. But I also want to make sure everyone remembers that HR 621 was just one small piece of a much bigger and longer running issue. There will be plenty more bad proposals and bills like this coming down the pipeline. So enjoy this one today and then ready yourself for the work left to do. Let’s keep it public. – Mark Kenyon
If you’d like to learn more about the threat of public lands transfer/sale, check out the following resources: