Elk NetworkRMEF Supports Public Lands Legislation

General | February 19, 2024

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the Public Lands in Public Hands Act, new legislation introduced to maintain public access to public land by banning the sale or transfer of most public lands managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), except under specific conditions and where required under previous laws.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) introduced the bill at a Montana roundtable attended by RMEF with support from Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM).

“Core to our mission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a staunch advocate for public lands. We support Representative Zinke’s Public Lands in Public Hands Act to keep Interior and Forest Service lands in federal public ownership, open to hunting and multiple use for all Americans,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.

The bill also requires congressional approval for disposals of publicly accessible federal land tracts larger than 300 acres and for public land tracts larger than five acres, if accessible via a public waterway.

Both the USFS and DOI have authorities to transfer or sell public land, the most common being the Bureau of Land Management. While most parcels listed for disposal are small and inaccessible, making them good candidates for targeted sale, numerous disposal tracts are publicly accessible and important for recreation. The bill would increase congressional scrutiny over land tracts listed for disposal while protecting smaller transfers that increase public access.

“Public lands must remain public, and the federal government has a responsibility to manage and ensure access to those lands,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke. “As DOI secretary, I prioritized opening up land-locked parcels of public lands and expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act is the next step in ensuring our public lands are publicly accessible for future generations.”

“I am a proud lifelong advocate for preserving New Mexico’s public lands, improving equitable access to the outdoors and creating good-paying jobs,” said Rep. Vasquez. “I am glad to partner with Rep. Zinke on this legislation in Congress. We both know that ensuring access to our public lands crosses party lines.”

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)