Ross is at it again providing you all with more insight to what the Land Transfer could be.
Wild Country – Money Waiting to be Made.
When people look at wild country, they see opportunity. Some see adventures waiting to happen, a natural source of food and water, or just opportunity to participate in the natural world. While, other people look at this same land and sees dollar signs in the form of fossil fuels, ore, timber, and grazing land. I know it has been a while since you have seen an installment on this topic from me. I have been out enjoying all the opportunities we have, and generally avoiding all things political through the presidential election. As a matter of fact, I killed my elk this year on Election Day thanks to absent ballots. It is good to be back at it though, as now that the dust has settled, our fight will pick back up again.
“Fruits of my election day efforts”
To provide some context; under federal management our remaining wild country is managed for the benefit of all. This doesn’t preclude industries from responsibly exploiting the resources held in the public trust, but it does provide balance to ensure it is not at the cost of all other users. This healthy friction between exploitation and preservation is where the rub begins, and drives innocuous sounding groups like the American Lands Counsel to fight to degrade the protections that federal stewardship provides.
As a person begin to look at the arguments in favor of the federal government divesting of our public lands, you will see them generally revolving around poor management by the agencies charged with their care. This is the disguise; while there is certainly room for improvement in how our wild country is managed and cared for, but it is certainly better than complete exploitation, is it not? The real goal of these groups is to get this land into hands whose motivation and mandate is different than the federal government. They want it in the hand of those who are looking to maximized profits without concern for maintaining the integrity of the land. This is what drives them towards transfer or divestiture.
The most popular avenue that these group seem to push is transfer to the state, for the supposed reason that states can better manage what is in their backyard. At first blush this sounds logical, but there is much more to it. First, states own land with the mandate of making a profit to support their public schools system, and generally state ownership does not equal public access. From a purely financial perspective, this will naturally drive state to eventual sale of the land, due to decreased profits as resources are depleted, the huge cost associated with management, or economic issues that drive them towards a quick influx of money from selling the land.
Another impact of state transfer is that in many states the game/fish/parks agency has to lease state owned land held in their school trust in order to provide public access, all driven by this mandate to make a profit. Colorado is a great example. Take a look at the map below. All of that green and yellow shaded land is owned by the federal government as is open to your use. Now, all of that federal land was transferred to the state, in order to maintain public access (just to be clear, this includes all outdoor recreation) Colorado Parks and Wildlife would have to lease all of that land. Not to mention that CPW would also now be saddled with wildland firefighting, maintenance, and everything else currently being done by federal agencies. Does this seem even remotely tenable? It doesn’t to me. It sounds to me like a recipe for eventual sale to private entities. Completely ending the legacy left by generations of conservationists. (Side note: in case you need any other motivation, Colorado provides more opportunity
and those federal lands hold more Rocky Mountain Elk than any other state. Just saying…..)
“Colorado Federal lands Atlas”
As we look at how we can raise awareness and build more support for preserving our public lands (that’s right, I said we), we need to get people to recognize the value of these lands even if it isn’t directly as a commodity to be bought or sold. What make our country and these land so special is that they are for the benefit of all, and as such we all need to ensure our voices are heard. I can assure you those on the other side are very active in the pursuit of their goal. I don’t want to live in a society where the only value we are able to place on an object is monetary. In my mind our wild places cannot be owned, and we shouldn’t try and tame them, we need to protect them as the last places we can go to test ourselves and truly participate in the wild.