U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke abandoned his previously principled stance against federal land grabs by voting in favor of legislation that will let Congress avoid calculating the land’s value before transferring it to states or even private companies. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates proposed public land transfer costs by evaluating the economic impacts of the revenue generated by existing uses. This legislation passed in the House of Representatives removes that significant obstacle by ruling that no revenue will be lost through the land’s “conveyance.” Millions of acres of federally owned and managed lands generate several billions of dollars in net revenue annually to the U.S. Treasury, but Zinke essentially voted to give it away for free.
A self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” Zinke quit the Republican platform-writing committee just last year because he disagreed with the GOP’s position on ceding national parks, monuments, wilderness areas, and other national treasures. Wilderness advocates who endorsed Zinke’s nomination to head the U.S. Department of the Interior because of that bold stance decried his congressional vote as a fiscally irresponsible, flagrant attack on public lands that belong to all Americans.