Movement for states to take over public lands lacks sense

National public lands are an American treasure.

Those of us who value our natural resources and support the conservation of America’s fish, forest and wildlife are proud of our nation’s public lands heritage.

Unfortunately, special interest groups are working to erode your rights to these treasured lands and are seeking the support of state legislators in the East.

Supporters of this movement to transfer federal lands to states, like the radicals who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, claim to believe states would do a better job of managing these lands than the federal government.

The truth is these supporters know the states cannot afford to take on the responsibility and financial burden of managing these lands, so the states would have to sell them. Special interest groups and the ultra-rich would gain, while you, I and every other American who relies on access to public land for outdoor recreation would lose.

“Proponents of the scheme to hand over America’s public lands like to make the speculative claim that states would do a better job managing these lands,” said Corey Fisher, a Missoula, Montana-based Senior Policy Director for Trout Unlimited. “The truth is that states have a dubious track record. Western States have already sold off tens of millions of acres that they were granted at statehood.

“Moreover, state lands are typically managed for maximum profit, not multiple use, often to the detriment of fish and wildlife habitat. America’s public lands work really well for sportsmen and women and we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by gambling on the transfer of our public lands. It’s a fool’s bet.”

During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt established 230 million acres of public lands, with 150 million of those acres set aside as national forests. Today, an average of 160 million recreational visitors use our National Forest System lands each year. Many of those who hunt, fish, camp, and hike on our national public lands in the west are from the east. Many are from Indiana. Now our legislature is considering a resolution that would place the support of our state behind a movement to end citizens’ rights and access to these lands.

“As a Westerner who relies exclusively on public lands to hunt and fish, I take umbrage with legislators pushing a wholesale transfer of public lands to western states,” said Aaron Kindle, Western Sportsmen’s Campaign Manager for the National Wildlife Federation. “Here in Colorado we only have access to 17 percent of our State Trust Lands. Access is severely restricted, and can be eliminated at the drop of a dime.

“Contrast that with the millions of acres of national public lands that are open to and owned by all Americans, and home to the large populations of fish and game that make the West so special.”

If you’re a sportsman, you should be outraged by this proposal, but even if you don’t hunt or fish, ask yourself this: do I want to see the national lands in the West turned over to states so they can be sold off to the highest bidder?

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears regularly in the Daily Reporter. Send comments to dr-editorial@ greenfieldreporter.com.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears regularly in the Daily Reporter. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.