Protests End Plan to Sell Federal Land for Mines

This past week, Republican leaders in Congress abandoned their efforts to revive the controversial practice of selling federal land to mining companies. The proposal had set off emotional debate in western states. Environmentalists, hunters, and Democratic governors lined up against it.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Last month, we reported that Congress was considering a measure to allow companies and individuals to buy large swaths of federal land across the West. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reported that a wide variety of people who enjoy public lands banded together to oppose the measure. This week, the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill dropped it.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN reporting:

The provision was one of the contentious issues that has been stalling a budget bill in Congress. If it had become law, it would have ended a 12-year moratorium on selling federal land to people with mining claims. Under the provision, they would have paid $1,000 an acre or the market price, whichever was higher. Supporters of the provision say it would create economic development in rural communities. Critics, though, say it would lead to a massive sell-off of the western landscape to real estate developers. Hunters and bird watchers, snowmobilers and environmentalists joined together to fight the measure. Several western governors and senators, mostly Democrats but some Republicans as well, also weighed in. Environmental lawyer Roger Flynn helped lead the charge.

Mr. ROGER FLYNN (Environmental Lawyer): Environmentalists will often fight with, you know, snowmobilers or RV users or hunters or whatever. But everyone agrees that it should stay public land. I mean, everyone fights over how to use public land, but all those groups say--well, we all agree it should stay in public hands.

SHOGREN: Supporters of the measure say they'll try again next year, but opponents say they've proven that the coalition to keep public lands public is too strong to beat. Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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