Conservation Fund welcomes re-establishment of 'common sense' US federal land exchange program it says will increase recreational access to public lands in western states, support economic development, consolidate land ownership, conserve special places

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ARLINGTON, Virginia , February 28, 2022 (press release) –

Conservation Organizations Hail Biden Administration’s Re-establishment of Successful Land Exchange Program

Conservation organizations, sportsmen and women’s groups, and outdoor recreation groups welcome full implementation of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). Expired in 2011 and permanently reauthorized in March 2018, this successful land exchange program will once again increase recreational access to public lands, support economic development, consolidate land ownership, and conserve special places in western states. After several years of development, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials signed the implementation agreement in January, formally reestablishing FLTFA.

“It’s good to have FLTFA back. This common-sense solution makes conservation work for America, supporting both local economies and the environment in the West,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, the organization leading the FLTFA Reauthorization Coalition. “We are grateful for the Biden Administration carrying this critical tool across the finish line as well as the bipartisan leaders in Congress who came together to permanently reauthorize this important law in 2018.”

Under FLTFA, strategic federal land sale proceeds by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will contribute to an account for the purchase of high-priority conservation lands within or adjacent to BLM, USFS, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in the eleven contiguous western states and Alaska. Sale proceeds will also cover administrative costs of the BLM land sales.

Lands protected by FLTFA enhance public access to popular recreational destinations—like Zion National Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Snake River Area of Critical Environmental Concern—and support the local tourism economy through retail sales, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and more. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in the twelve western FLTFA states annually contributes more than $95 billion to the gross domestic product and supports more than 1.1 million jobs, which provide more $54 billion in wages. The fully implemented bill expands FLTFA to protect additional categories of public lands, including more lands adjacent to and within national forests and places where access to BLM lands are currently inaccessible for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.

A diverse list of over 190 conservation, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation groups have supported permanent FLTFA reauthorization.

“The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act stands to provide a vitally important funding stream to safeguard the natural resources needed to support healthy and equitable communities,” said Diane Regas, CEO for The Trust for Public Land (TPL). “Building on the permanent reauthorization of the program in 2018, FLTFA also represents a bipartisan solution to often difficult public land management challenges. We’re grateful for the longstanding support of Congress for this program, including Chairman Raul Grijalva and Senator Martin Heinrich’s leadership in securing its reauthorization. We at TPL are committed to partnering with local communities to solve problems affecting quality of life and connect people to the joys of the outdoors, throughout the West and all across the country. This is a big win for conservation and for the local communities that will benefit in the years to come.”

“FLTFA is a common-sense, bipartisan solution that will improve public land access for America’s sportsmen and women,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) President and CEO Jeff Crane. “CSF was proud to work with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to improve FLTFA by making U.S. Forest Service access projects eligible for the program as part of our larger goal of ‘Making Public Lands Public.’ We applaud the agencies for taking this important step.”

“We are delighted to hear FLTFA is back, providing valuable resources for federal agencies to purchase the ecologically sensitive lands we are acquiring across the American west to protect federally designated wilderness,” said Brad Borst, president of The Wilderness Land Trust. “Ultimately, these properties belong in public hands and FLTFA can help make that a reality.”

“American hunters and anglers remain committed to addressing the challenge of insufficient public access in the United States,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “FLTFA offers a proven solution to this problem while also connecting habitat for fish and wildlife and bolstering local economic opportunity all across the country. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers joined a broad coalition of interests in helping permanently reauthorize FLTFA in 2018. Today, we commend the decision to officially reestablish FLTFA, and we thank the foresighted decision makers who are working to make the management of our public lands and waters more efficient.”

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association remarked: “We are thrilled to see the administration reestablish the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act. For years, this program has helped to protect landscapes in and around our national parks, including Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico. These lands not only provide more recreational opportunities for millions of people, but they also hold important resources that tell the story of our country’s history. As encroaching development continues to put our national parks at risk, this program will be even more critical to conserving public lands and ensuring that everyone has equitable access to these places.”

“Access to public lands is essential for all who love America’s great outdoors—from hunters and anglers to hikers, paddlers, and wildlife watchers—and the wildlife, jobs, and communities that depend upon those lands. Implementing the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act will once again help federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management better conserve existing public lands and improve access for the benefit of all users,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Thank you to President Biden for taking this critical step and to the bipartisan coalition that permanently reauthorized the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act in 2018.”

“The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act is a critical conservation tool for Western lands and all sportsmen and sportswomen, because it ensures that revenues from the sale of small or low-value parcels of BLM land are used to buy new public lands with hunting and fishing access or high-value habitat,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Acre by acre, this makes a difference to Americans who struggle to find a place to get outdoors close to home and to migratory species that face challenges moving across an increasingly fragmented landscape.”

“We are pleased that the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act has officially been implemented,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) president and CEO. “RMEF strongly supports the act’s sanctioning of strategic federal land sales that fund high-priority land conservation projects and acquisition of lands that enhance public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.”

Passage of the FLTFA Reauthorization Act in 2018 resulted from the concerted efforts of numerous bipartisan members of Congress:

“I was proud to lead the bipartisan effort in the Senate to permanently reauthorize FLTFA, which has a proven record of improving conservation, recreational access, and economic development,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Funds from FLTFA have been used to protect iconic landscapes in New Mexico including Aztec Ruins National Monument, the Santa Fe National Forest, and Elk Springs. With this agreement in place, we have one of our most effective conservation tools back in the toolbox.”

“It is no coincidence that land management is most efficient at the state and local level, where it has the most immediate impact on economic development,” said U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “I am pleased to see the FLTFA, whose permanent reauthorization I led in Congress, reestablished by the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service. This critical program brings a commonsense approach to land transactions and will allow for greater access to our public lands—all without spending taxpayer funds or adding to the surplus of federally-owned property. I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of FLTFA’s implementation in Central Washington and across the West over the coming years.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, House Leadership and Appropriations Members, including then Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA), then Ranking Member Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) advanced the bill in its final stages. Former House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) led a permanent FLTFA reauthorization bill (H.R. 5133), with then Ranking Member Grijalva’s (D-AZ) support as part of the unanimous approval at Committee markup. H.R. 5133 advanced as the language in the FY 2018 omnibus. Co-sponsors included former Representatives Greg Gianforte (R-MT) and Scott Tipton (R-CO). Past leaders in the U.S. House include Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and former Representative and now Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). 

In the U.S. Senate, Senate Leadership and Appropriations Members, including then Subcommittee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Former Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-NM) helped advance FLTFA in the spending bill, with then authorizing Committee Chairman Murkowski’s and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) leadership. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Former Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) co-led a permanent FLTFA reauthorization bill (S. 2185) that was also widely supported, with the additional cosponsors, James Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jon Tester (D-MT) and former Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).   

For more information about FLTFA Reauthorization, visit www.fltfa.org

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land.

Media Contact: Ann Simonelli | (703) 908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org

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