Will the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Make Public Land Disappear?

Will the looming ‘fiscal cliff’ lead to the disappearance and destruction of our public lands? It could if some Members of Congress have it their way.

Last week, Rep. Rob Bishop (UT) and Rep. Steve Pearce (NM) sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, claiming that selling off public land and taking more public land for drilling will help solve our budget crises. This isn’t a unique idea—Paul Ryan’s House-passed budget proposal also calls for selling our public land to the highest bidder.

It’s true that Congress will need to come up with ideas on how to reduce our deficit, but selling cherished parks, forests, and wilderness isn’t the right one. Auctioning away America’s natural wonders is a reckless endeavor that will only hurt local economies, destroy wildlife habitat, and obstruct access to millions of people who enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, and exploring our country’s public lands.

Whether its through direct jobs, tourism, or gear for outdoor activities, public lands pump billions of dollars into our economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct American jobs and $646 billion in direct consumer spending each year.

Public lands also provide critical wildlife habitat and are necessary for cleaning our air, providing clean water, and sequestering carbon pollution. Sacrificing these things now is a short sighted move that will hurt future generations.

Polar bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge // Susanne Miller/USFWS
In addition to selling public lands, Reps. Bishop and Pearce call for opening up pristine American landscapes to destructive drilling: places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to endangered polar bears, millions of migrating birds, and the Porcupine caribou herd.

Reps. Bishop and Pearce’s proposal to take over public lands for drilling is out of touch with American voters, including individuals that hunt, fish, and recreate on our public lands:

  • A recent poll found that sportsmen prioritize protecting public lands above energy production. Given a choice between protecting America’s public lands and prioritizing the production of oil, gas and coal, 49 percent want to protect public lands and just 35 percent choose fossil fuel production.
  • Another post-election Zogby poll found that independent voters favor wind and solar over fossil fuels by a 4-to-1 margin: 48 percent pick renewable energy while only 11 percent prioritize more oil and gas drilling on America’s public lands.

Tackling our budget is a serious issue — but it shouldn’t lead to the destruction and disappearance of our public lands. Congress should work together to protect programs that safeguard our air, water, and wildlife while finding a balanced approach to the deficit.


Take ActionDo your part—ask your Members of Congress to preserve funding for our public lands and wildlife conservation programs.