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HomePoliticsMontana PoliticsZinke Introduces the Bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act

Zinke Introduces the Bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act

Legislation protects nearly 30 million acres of publicly accessible land in Montana

(BOZEMAN, MT) Today, Congressman Ryan Zinke announced the introduction of the bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act

at a roundtable discussion in Bozeman with representatives from Montana’s leading outdoor recreation, sportsmen and conservation organizations. Zinke partnered with Democrat Congressman Gabe Vasquez from New Mexico on the legislation.

The Public Lands in Public Hands Act follows Zinke’s commitment to maintaining public access to public land by banning the sale or transfer of most public lands managed by the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest service except under specific conditions and where required under previous laws. The bill also requires Congressional approval for disposals of publicly accessible federal land tracts over 300 acres and for public land tracts over 5 acres if accessible via a public waterway. This provision alone would protect public access to nearly 30 million acres of public lands depended upon by outdoorsmen of all types across Montana.

In Montana, and across the West, public lands are an integral piece of our way of life. Both the Forest Service (USFS) and The Department of the Interior (DOI) have authorities to transfer or sell public land, the most commonly used 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 Public Lands in Public Hands Act would increase Congressional scrutiny over land tracts listed for disposal while protecting smaller transfers that increase public access.

“In Montana public lands are our way of life. It’s not just Yellowstone and Glacier, it’s also the BLM and Forest Service areas where a kid fills their first tag, a lake in the Beartooths that is the perfect picnic spot, and the trail just down the road that helps you clear your head after a long workday,” Rep. Ryan Zinke said. “Public lands must remain public, and the federal government has a responsibility to manage and ensure access to those lands. As 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’m grateful for the collaboration of Montana’s leading recreation, sportsmen and conservation organizations and appreciate Congressman Vasquez’s bipartisan teamwork on the bill. It’s good to know things can still get done in DC beyond political party lines.”

“I am a proud lifelong advocate for preserving New Mexico’s public lands, improving equitable access to the outdoors and creating good-paying jobs,” Rep. Vasquez said. “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.”

Leading Montana and National outdoor recreation, sportsmen and conservation organizations collaborated on and support the legislation including: Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Boone & Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Montana Guides and Outfitters Association, Revelyst (VISTA Outdoor), Backcountry Horsemen’s Association, and others.

Clayton Elliot, Trout Unlimited Conservation and Government Affairs Director said, “Montana’s public lands and waterways are an intrinsic part of our way of life. As an avid angler, I’m especially grateful to Congressman Zinke for introducing legislation, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act, that will safeguard our cold-water resources, wild trout fisheries, and ensure public access to us all, now and into the future.”

Diane Bristol, Vice President, People, Culture & Community at Revelyst – Outdoor Performance said, “Public access is an absolute necessity to maintain our nation’s fishing and hunting heritage and contributes to a thriving community of conservation-minded outdoors people. Access to public lands also supports a vibrant outdoor industry that generates approximately $1.1 trillion in economic output. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act is reflective of collaborative, long-term thinking.”

Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President said, “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.”

Joel Webster, VP of western conservation with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said, “Smaller parcels of public land can offer great hunting and fishing, and modern GPS technology commonly found in smartphone applications has made accessible tracts readily available to America’s outdoor enthusiasts. Unfortunately, high-value public land tracts are sometimes targeted for sale, and TRCP appreciates the leadership of Representatives Zinke and Vasquez to prevent the sale of important parcels by introducing the Public Lands in Public Hands Act.”

Patrick Berry, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers said, “Core to the BHA mission is the sanctity of public lands and waters, resources cherished by hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts, and valued as an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage. Without publicly accessible places to recreate, many Americans who share a love for hunting and fishing would be excluded from the opportunity to pursue their passion. We thank Reps. Zinke and Vasquez for introducing the Public Lands in Public Hands Act which would help to ensure our hunting and angling traditions can continue for future generations.”

Read the bill text here.

Press release provided by Congressman Ryan Zinke

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