Representative Rob Bishop of Utah has authored a new bill to help with Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. The problem is that it includes a provision that would allow the sale and private development of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
Under the bill, 3,100 acres of the refuge to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico who could then sell it off to private interests. This means it could be developed on, threatening the animals that live there, including 12 endangered animals and plants as well as 190 species of migratory and resident birds.
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge was original an area where the U.S. navy conducted live munitions bombings. The bombings were halted in 2001 due to residents’ opposition and was then turned into a refuge. It is currently the fourth most popular refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge system.
It is unclear why Bishop is pushing for the refuge to be part of the debt relief bill. Not only did Puerto Rico not ask for the land to be put up for development, but disposing of the land won’t even address the debt crisis. Plus, selling off public lands is a highly unpopular idea.
But Bishop has a history of attempting to sell of federal lands. In the past he has sponsored a bill that would dispose of 40,000 acres of public land in Utah and has organized a group to sell off national public lands.
The House Natural Resources Committee will conduct a hearing for the bill on April 13.