Congress Could Pass a Bill That Would Giveaway 50 Million Acres of Publicly-Owned Wildlands to Oil, Gas and Mining Companies

It's time to stop the "Great American Giveaway."

Woody Guthrie put it best when he sang, "This land is your land." Until, that is, someone steals it from you. And from the redwood forests to the New York island, that's exactly what could happen if we don't stop an extreme bill in Congress that would essentially turn over 50 million acres of publicly owned wildlands to oil, gas, and mining companies for drilling, mining, logging, road construction, and other destructive development.

Wilderness that represents the historical, geological, and ecological diversity of the United States, from iconic red rock canyons in Utah to ancient temperate rainforests in Alaska to scenic mountains in New Mexico, could be lost forever. Here's a slideshow of just some of the places at risk.

Introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, this bill (H.R. 1581) would eliminate protection for wilderness study areas and Forest Service roadless areas -- exactly the kind of healthy, undisturbed lands that provide and safeguard clean air and water resources, supply habitat for plants and animals, and offer Americans a place to get outdoors and kayak, camp, fish, or hike. That's one reason why people in the outdoor recreation industry -- which, by the way, supports nearly 6.5 million jobs and contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy -- are among the biggest opponents of this public lands giveaway. 

No one deserves the gut punch of coming home to discover that they've been burglarized. But if this "Great American Giveaway" bill becomes law, then every single American will be the victim of a brazen theft that's just as heartless. Woody was right. It's your land. Not ExxonMobil's. Not Peabody Coal's. Not Koch Industries'. These lands are our lands. Tell your member of Congress that we need to keep it that way. 



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Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club.