Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), joined by his colleagues Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recently announced the reintroduction of the HOUSES Act (S. 3117), legislation that would permit state or local entities to purchase federal public lands “well below market value.”
Sen. Lee and the bill’s other sponsors claim that the HOUSES Act would alleviate the affordable housing crisis. However, it is similar to legislation that Sen. Lee floated back in 2018 – and it underscores his long-term interest in transferring public lands out of the hands of the American public.
Sen. Lee’s anti-public lands agenda was highlighted again in 2019, when he proposed legislation to transfer federal public lands to the states, stipulating that the states could then privatize that land and use the money for education and government services.
The availability and affordability of housing is a real concern that impacts everyday Americans; however, the HOUSES Act does not present a meaningful attempt to solve this issue. Rather, it would facilitate the removal of multiple-use lands from the public estate. Given Sen. Lee’s well-established track record of proposing legislation targeting public lands, it is difficult to see this bill as anything other than an attempt to strip the public of our public lands. To add insult to injury, the HOUSES Act proposes that parcels of public lands up for grabs would be sold at a discounted rate.
The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act already allows for the exchange of specific, low value, isolated parcels of public land where it is necessary. New legislation broadening and streamlining the transfer of our public lands is of great concern and opens up the doors to future abuses.
Sen. Lee has compared America’s public land system to feudal England where “royal forests” existed exclusively for elites to enjoy hunting opportunities. As we all know, this comparison couldn’t be further from the truth. Hunters, anglers and outdoor recreators in the U.S. have the unparalleled opportunity to enjoy 640 million acres of public lands and waters, spanning a diverse range of fish and wildlife habitat. Many sportsmen and women have nonexistent or limited access to private lands. We rely on America’s public lands system to pursue our traditions.
As the voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife, BHA is opposed to any legislation such as the HOUSES Act that would limit the ability for sportsmen and women, as well as all Americans, to access our outdoor heritage. BHA will continue to speak out against this bill and any other attempts to sell off our invaluable public lands and waters. We hope you will join us by taking action below.