February 26, 2024

CSC Members Introduce Keep Public Lands in Public Hands Act

Article Contact: Taylor Schmitz,

Why It Matters: Public access to public lands and waters is critical to maintaining opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting. GPS and other technologies have significantly changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands as well as their ability to identity new lands for recreational access that may previously have been unknown or unclear. With these technologies in mind, it is critical that increased scrutiny is provided before federal agencies sale or transfer public lands, with certain exceptions, to ensure that recreational access is not inadvertently hindered.  


  • Last week, Congressman Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Ryan Zinke and Gabe Vasquez introduced H.R. 7430, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act.
  • This legislation, strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), will provide increased scrutiny over the sale or transfer of public lands with certain exceptions.
  • The primary purpose of this legislation is to provide Congressional oversight over the disposal of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) that provide recreational value for sportsmen and women, among other users of public lands.

On February 20, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act was introduced in a bipartisan fashion by CSC Member Rep. Ryan Zinke and CSC Member Rep. Gabe Vasquez. This legislation will establish an important emphasis on the recreational value of BLM and USFS parcels identified for disposal.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) is an overarching law that governs how our nation’s public lands are managed and governed. FLPMA requires that federal agencies, including the BLM and USFS, must periodically review their land holdings and identify lands that are appropriate for disposal or exchange. Historically, lands identified for disposal under FLPMA were often focused on small parcels that were viewed as low priority for access purposes or because resource value was low, among other factors. However, with GPS technologies and other technological advancements that have changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands, historically low priority lands have become more valuable for recreational purposes.

Specifically, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act requires Congressional approval for the sale or transfer of publicly accessible lands that are greater than 300 acres and water accessible lands that are greater than five acres. Under current law, Congress does not need to provide oversight over the sale or transfer of parcels of FLPMA identified parcels regardless of size. This legislation establishes an important threshold to maintain public access for sportsmen and women while recognizing that smaller, less recreationally important lands are suitable for disposal. This legislation does not prevent or prohibit the transfer or sale of public lands. Nor does this legislation undermine important land transaction programs that help increase access such as the Federal Lands Transaction Facilitation Act. Rather, this legislation establishes an important threshold to ensure that important recreational lands and water are scrutinized and approved by Congress before being sold or transferred.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Members Reps. Zinke and Vazquez for introducing this important legislation, and we look forward to working with them to maintain access for sportsmen and women.

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