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Senate Votes in Favor of Public Lands Seizure, Drawing Criticism from Sportsmen

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Budget amendment enabling sale, transfer of federal public lands passed yesterday in a 51-49 Senate vote.

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Budget amendment enabling sale, transfer of federal public lands passed yesterday in a 51-49 Senate vote

MISSOULA, Mont. – Following a flurry of votes during last night’s budget deliberations in the U.S. Senate, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers sharply criticized the passage of a measure that would enable the sale or transfer of federal public lands, including national forests, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and other places relied up by sportsmen and outdoor recreationists.

 SA 838, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and passed in a 51-49 vote, would support and fund state efforts to take possession of federal public lands.

 “Public lands are the fabric that binds America together, and last night’s vote by the Senate sends an alarming message to sportsmen and -women – along with every citizen who values our publicly owned resources,” said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. “Nationally, an organized, concerted movement is underway to sell off and limit access to America’s public lands and waters. These are not merely the actions of a lunatic fringe. Now is the time to double down and fight back against this ill-conceived idea.”

 While SA 838 was strongly opposed by some Western senators, the final tally of votes was not without surprises. Sen. Susan Collins changed her vote at the 11th hour to pass SA 838. Another noteworthy “yes” vote came from Sen. Steve Daines, who just last month tweeted during a speech to the Montana legislature, “We must stand firm against any efforts to sell our public lands.”

 “Sportsmen offer thanks to Senate members who stood firm against this shortsighted proposal,” continued Tawney. “Senators Corey Gardner, Kelly Ayotte and Lamar Alexander, along with many of their senate colleagues, voted against SA 838 and demonstrated their support of our American public lands. We look forward to working with them to maintain open access and continued public ownership of these irreplaceable public resources.”

 Another measure focused on public lands failed to get a vote during the Senate’s “vote-a-rama.” SA 1024, introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich, was intended to quash ongoing efforts by some interests to sell federal public lands and waters as a budget-tightening measure.

 “While we are disappointed it was never offered a vote, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers thanks Senator Heinrich for acting in the interests of American sportsmen by introducing this measure,” concluded Tawney. “Our hunting and angling traditions are steeped in our public lands that serve as the scenic backdrop for our most treasured memories. Thoughtful actions like Senator Heinrich’s hold the key to upholding these opportunities for our kids and grandkids to enjoy.”

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