GOP senators wary of provision on federal land sales

Some Senate Republicans from the West are unhappy with a provision in House-approved budget reconciliation language that would overturn a 1994 ban and potentially allow the sale of millions of acres of public lands, setting up a potential intra-party showdown during conference talks next month.

The House language would amend the 1872 Mining Act to allow the federal government to sell land for mining without receiving royalties from what is mined. Some GOP senators want to ensure national parks and other federal land are protected from development under the new language.

"There are certain things that would trigger some opposition," said a spokesman for Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. He added that those questioning the House language "want to stay away from the idea that this is some cheap way to get land."

Others are concerned that hunting and fishing might be curbed and uncontrollable development would result from the eased regulations. "I wouldn't say it has the green light yet," said a spokesman for Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

In an attempt to assuage some of the concerns, House Resources Chairman Pombo said in a letter last week to Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., that he would try to attach language in conference "clearly stating that access to hunting and fishing operations will be protected as under current law."

Senate Democrats are also fighting the language. Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement that the House provision "would result in a deeply troubling outcome -- a fire sale of valuable federal lands, adverse impacts on national parks, forests and other public lands, and new, ambiguous legal standards and requirements that will have far-reaching negative consequences."

While 5.7 million acres of land have mining claims on them, a spokesman for Pombo says the language restricts sales to about 360,000 acres where claims have "a plan of operation or pending plans of operation." Of those acres, CBO has determined that about 140,000 were likely to be purchased, resulting in $158 million in federal revenue over five years and $326 million over 10 years. The language calls for each acre to be sold for $1,000 or "fair market value," whichever is higher.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.