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Know the West

Eight lawmakers whose bills attack public lands

Who are the Westerners behind bills meant to weaken federal protections of land?


When President Donald Trump signed an order loosening fossil fuel regulations in March, he proclaimed the dawn of “a new era in American energy production and job creation.” Both his administration and the 115th Congress strongly espouse these goals: Trump has filled his Cabinet with industry darlings like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Perry and Pruitt have strong ties to the energy industry in their home states, while Zinke met with more oil and gas lobbyists than representatives of any other interest group during his first months in office. Meanwhile, many Republicans in Congress have received hefty campaign contributions from powerful players in extractive industries, such as Koch Industries and Chevron, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit that analyzes money behind elections and policy. These lawmakers have also introduced bills to weaken public-land protections and thereby benefit corporate oil and gas interests by opening up more land to potential development.

In response to backlash from constituents, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, withdrew HR 621, his bill to sell 3.3 million acres of public land. Though Chaffetz backed down — and will soon resign — several other anti-public-lands bills remain active in Congress. Many propose transferring federal lands to state control — a goal long part of the GOP platform — or weakening federal protections on national monuments and other public lands by changing the way they are designated. Below are the eight Western lawmakers most actively driving legislation, ranked by the number of bills they sponsor. This includes all such bills by these lawmakers since 2011, including those introduced by the 115th Congress.

Top 8 lawmakers with bills attacking public lands
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Note: In May, Rep. Mark Amodei withdrew his support for H.R. 1484, known as the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act. “Transferring millions of acres of public lands … is not something I think the majority of people think is a good idea,” Amodei told the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board at the time.