Center for Biological Diversity


For Immediate Release, May 3, 2017

Contact: Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894,

Congressman Griffith Introduces Bill to Block Public-land Expansion

Legislation Would Put a Cap on National Parks, Monuments

WASHINGTON— Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) has introduced legislation to cap public lands, requiring the federal government to sell off existing property before acquiring any new lands.

H.R. 2167 is part of a broader effort by conservative Republicans to dismantle the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses royalties from offshore oil and gas leases to fund strategic acquisitions of public lands.

“Investing in public lands is a great deal for the American people. Putting an arbitrary cap in place jeopardizes our most beloved national parks, monuments and forests across the country,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's public lands program. “This shortsighted bill shows that Griffith is completely out of touch with the values of his voters and most Americans, who overwhelmingly support protecting our public lands for future generations.”

In 1911 Congress passed the Weeks Act, which allowed for public-lands acquisition to protect water supplies, prevent soil erosion and restore forests. Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964 to provide a permanent source of funds to acquire public lands and conserve natural, cultural and scientific resources. The fund, sustained with royalties from offshore oil and gas leases in federally managed ocean areas, costs taxpayers nothing.

Over the past 50 years, the fund has protected more than 5 million acres of land, purchasing inholdings within existing protected areas and expanding or creating new parks, wildlife refuges and national forests. For every dollar invested in public land acquisition, there is a $4 return to surrounding communities, including watershed protection, recreational opportunities and land management. The fund has a $19 billion budget surplus that could support land acquisition at current rates for the next 40 years. That surplus is largely because Republicans have blocked public-land purchases.

“Forcing the federal government to sell an acre of land before purchasing another makes no sense, economically or environmentally,” Spivak said. “Without land acquisition, the Jefferson and George Washington national forests in Griffith's district would not exist. These forests provide places for his constituents to hike, hunt and fish. They preserve fresh water supplies and they're an economic boon to surrounding communities. None of this would be possible without land acquisition.”

The Center for Biological Diversity's recent report, Public Lands Enemies, identifies the top 15 members of Congress trying to seize, destroy, dismantle and privatize America's public lands. Collectively these members have sponsored 132 anti-public lands bills since 2011. 

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 38 bills to weaken public-lands management, turn over public lands to states, or otherwise repeal protections for public lands. The vast majority of voters across political parties support federal protection and maintenance of national parks, monuments and other public lands, indicating such lawmakers are out of touch with the majority of American voters — including those in their own states.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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