Issa, Hunter vote to give away federal lands

San Diego Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa joined with the House Majority in voting for a rules change would allow giveaway of federal lands to states, local governments, or tribes.

Potentially, such giveaways could include national parks such as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. It also encompasses all other public lands; here in San Diego these include Cleveland National Forest, federal recreation areas and national wildlife preserves.

The provision is part of House Resolution 5, a rules package approved by a 233 to 190 vote. San Diego’s Democratic representatives Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas voted against the measure.

Republicans have claimed some federal lands have fallen into disrepair and that local governments would be better positioned to handle such properties for local benefits.

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But Democrats warn that if protected federal lands are given away to local governments or tribes, cash-strapped local entities could later sell off those lands to developers.  They contend that federal public lands should be managed for the benefit of all Americans, not just local communities.

The measure changes rules that costs be considered before any transfer can be made of federal lands that generate revenues for the U.S. Treasury, such as visitor fees, logging, grazing, or energy extraction.  Any lost revenues would have to be offset through other revenue sources or budget cuts before public lands could be disposed of – until now.

The new rule approved by House Republicans would eliminate that requirement.

Arizona Congressman Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, called the change “outrageous.”  In a letter to fellow Democrats he wrote that the rule change will allow Congress to “give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.”

Alan Rowsome, senior government relations director for The Wilderness Society, accused Congressional Republicans of “declaring open season on federal lands.”

Ironically, it was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who first established America’s national parks, forests and monuments systems as a means of forever preserving our most cherished places, as well as protecting environments for camping, fishing and hunting.

President-Elect Donald Trump has not embraced that view, nor has his nominee as Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke, a Montana Republican. In fact, Zinke resigned as a GOP convention delegate last summer over this issue.   Trump told Field and Stream last year that he believes “We have to be great stewards of this land” and that public lands should not be sold off during troubled times.

Whether or not Trump would defy the Republican-controlled Congress to sign bills giving away public lands, however, remains to be seen.

Want to tell your Congressional member your views on this issue and their vote?  Here’s how to reach them:

49th district – Daryl Issa (R)


Washington:  Phone (202) 225-3906; fax (202) 225-3303

Vista:  Phone (760) 599-5000; fax (760)  599-1178


District office: 1800 Thibodo Road, #310 Vista, CA 92083


50th district – Duncan Hunter (R)


Washington D.C.  Phone: 202-225-5672 Fax: 202-225-0235

El Cajon:  Phone: 619-448-5201 Fax: 619-449-2251

District office:  1611 Magnolia Ave., Suite 310 El Cajon, CA 92020


51st district –  Juan Vargas (D)


Washington D.C. Phone: 202-225-8045 Fax: 202-225-9073

San Diego Phone: 619-422-5963 Fax: 619-422-7290

District office:  333 F Street, #A Chula Vista, CA 91910-2624


52nd District — Scott Peters (D)


2410 Rayburn House Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-0808 Fax: 202-225-2558

4350 Executive Drive, Suite 105 San Diego, CA 92122

Phone: 858-455-5550


53rd district:  Susan Davis (D)


Washington: Phone: (202) 225-2040; Fax: (202) 225-2948

San Diego:  Phone: (619) 280-5353; Fax: (619) 280-5311

District office: 2700 Adams Avenue, #102 San Diego, CA 92116



Printed by permission of East County Magazine, visit Miriam Rafferty, East County Magazine editor, has over 30 years experience as a journalist and editor.  She has won more than 250 journalism awards, includingthe American Society of Journalists & Authors’ national Arlene Award for community journalism and San Diego Press Club’s Best of Show award prior to founding ECM.

She has covered major news stories including the California wildfires, Congressional and presidential elections, and Hurricane Katrina, as well as topics ranging from politics and election integrity to health, nutrition, homes and gardens.

A former columnist and freelance writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, she has also worked as an editor of a national nutrition journal and a literary magazine as well as senior national investigative reporter for Her works have appeared in many national and regional publications, from Woman’s Day to  Arizona Highways. An East County native, she takes pride in exploring East County’s back roads and byways, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for news and feature stories.

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