Letter to the Editor – Federal Lands Help Federal Budget

Published in the Pensacola News Journal on February 5, 2017.

Federal lands bring in the big bucks. Ecotourism and other recreation on public lands rake in over $600 billion and create more than six million jobs.

Let’s be honest, a lot is happening in government right now. One new policy – included in revised budget rules – states that moving public land (such as in a sale) to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”

Uh, what? Legal language isn’t always easy to decipher, but in short: Congress no longer needs to prove that selling federal land avoids decreasing federal government revenue and/or increasing the level of the federal debt — a previous requirement.

I’ve paddled around mangrove islands in Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, walked beneath pine boughs within Apalachicola National Forest, and snorkeled off the unique Dry Tortugas National Park. I consider these natural wonders not only one of the many privileges of living in the United States, but also an environmental legacy for all of us. If Congress wants to transfer lands, they must go through each and every legal and ethical step, not create shortcuts with revised budgetary rules. We deserve more.

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