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Photo: Edward Stojakovic / Flickr

On the first day of the new Congress, House Republicans approved a package of rules Tuesday that included a provision that would treat giving away America’s public lands as “budget neutral,” meaning that they have no monetary value when it comes to giving, selling or trading them away to states. The rules are part of a larger effort by politicians like Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) who want to hand over control of federal public lands to states and corporate interests.

“America’s forests, mountains, deserts, rivers and other public lands are priceless, irreplaceable places treasured by people across the country,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s appalling to see this new Republican-controlled Congress already tossing them aside as worthless.”

Bishop and others in Congress have been trying to hand over millions of acres of public lands so they can be exploited for private gain, including oil and gas drilling, logging and development. Several bills are expected in the 115th Congress that will enact the scheme.

“Public lands are worth far more than any short-term profits that these corporations will get. They provide everyday people with fresh drinking water, cleaner air and havens for recreational adventures and wildlife that live nowhere else,” Spivak said. “Here’s a chance for President-elect Trump to follow through on his promise not to give away America’s public lands to the highest bidder.”

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