Tipton, Donovan at odds over feds conveying land to states, locals
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A rule change in the House of Representatives could make it easier for the feds to convey land to state and local communities and Indian tribes.
Rep. Scott Tipton supported a U.S. House rule that eliminates federal costs from the calculation of transferring federal land to states and local communities. Tipton, a Republican, represents most of Western Colorado, including western Eagle County.
“No new authority to transfer land out of federal ownership was enacted in the rules package,” Tipton said.
The goal of the change was to update a convoluted budget practice that didn’t take into account factors that are not easily measured in dollars and cents, Tipton said.
State Sen. Kerry Donovan, an Eagle County Democrat, blasted House Republicans.
“By implementing this rule change, land-grabbing politicians used a D.C. maneuver to pull a fast one on Coloradans, and have put Colorado’s public lands at risk of being sold off to the highest bidder,” Donovan said in a written statement.
About the change
Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, if federal land generates revenue for the federal government, through things like oil and gas, logging, grazing, recreation or other industries, then that land has a cost. To convey that land to state or local government, or Indian tribes, someone has to cover that cost.
Under the new rule, lawmakers cannot use that budget issue if a land transfer bill comes to the floor.
Under the old House rule, if a land transfer costs the federal government revenue, then that loss must be offset by either new revenue or budget cuts.
The new rule eliminates that cost from those federal calculations, making it less convoluted, Tipton said.
He said, she said
“Because of the requirement that we offset the ‘cost’ of land conveyance, we’ve seen bipartisan, non-controversial land transfers between the federal government and the intended recipients take years, sometimes decades, to complete,” Tipton said.
Donovan said she is unconvinced.
“I was dismayed that on the first day of the new Congress, Washington Republicans passed a rule making it easier for public lands to be privatized,” Donovan said. “This runs counter to the fundamental, democratic principle that these lands are part of our heritage and belong to everyone.”
Tipton said he is proud of his record of protecting public land.
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked in a bipartisan manner to protect Colorado’s open spaces and scenic beauty, and I’ll continue to closely scrutinize any proposal to convey federal land that comes before the House of Representatives,” Tipton said.
It remains unclear how all this will play out with the Trump administration.
Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke is Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department. Zinke quit his post as a GOP convention delegate this past summer over his opposition to a similar GOP rule proposal.
A year ago, Trump opposed the concept during an interview with Field & Stream magazine.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.