Vasquez Introduces the Bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act


On February 27, 2024, U.S. Representative Gabe Vasquez announced the introduction of the bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act. Vasquez partnered with Republican U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke from Montana on the legislation.

The Public Lands in Public Hands Act follows Vasquez’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.

In New Mexico, 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.

“Protecting access and opportunity to our nation’s public lands is a promise we can and should make to future generations. That’s why I’m glad to sponsor the bipartisan Public Lands in Public Hands Act with Representative Zinke,” said Vasquez. “As a hunter and angler, I understand the importance of access to places that we can all enjoy now and in the future. We must never let politics get in the way of one of our greatest legislative accomplishments - protecting land, air, water and wildlife for the benefit of all Americans.”

“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.”

Leading 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.

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