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ocotillo-save-our-desert-365x243A BATTLE is looming over America’s public lands

It’s difficult to understand why, given decades of consistent, strong support from voters of both parties for protecting land, water and the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits these resources make possible.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate have passed the State National Forest Management Act (H.R.3650) measures that would allow the sale or outright giveaway of most public lands –including national forests, federal wildernesses and  wildlife preserves and Bureau of Land Management properties.  Only Republicans voted for the language slipped into a non-binding budget resolution—which passed without a single Democratic vote.

If the measure is ever implemented, hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, range-lands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites will revert to the states or local governments or be auctioned off. These lands constitute much of what’s left of the nation’s natural and historical heritage.

This shocking news was revealed in a New York Times editorial by Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. , titled Our Land, Up for Grabs.”

Here in San Diego’s East County alone, that could mean the demise of:  Cleveland National Forest,  Otay Mountain Wildnerness, Hauser Wilderness, Pine Creek , Carrizo Gorge, Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness , Agua Tibia Wilderness, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge , Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, McCain Valley National Recreation Area and more.

The two measures vary in just how far they would go. The Senate measure, which passed by a mere two-vote margin, would allow the federal government to sell or give away all federal lands to states or local governments that could auction them off, except for national parks and monuments. This could include bands of wilderness or forest lands surrounding national parks such as Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

The House measure, which passed 228 to 119, would similarly turn over public lands to states and local governments to give them “more control over the resources within their boundaries” to lead to “increased resource production and allow states and localities to take advantage of the benefits of increased economic activity.”

That could mean opening up these protected lands to oil drilling, fracking, mining, or development for commercial, industrial or residential projects. It would be up to each state or local government to decide the future of these federal lands.  Let’s not forget that in the recent budget crisis, California’s Governor was set to allow the closure and sale of 70 state parks (thankfully all but two were spared due to an improving budget and citizens’ groups that stepped forward to cover some operational costs.)

State and local parks could fall to the Congressional budget axe too, since next up the Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization vote looms, which provides money to partially underwrite state and local parks and recreation, conservation easements, and also money for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. It expired September 30th if Congress won’t reauthorize it.

Ironically it was a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, who started the federal system for preserving lands for posterity for the public enjoyment, after his visits to Yosemite and Yellowstone inspired him to launch the national parks and national forest systems.

Over 400 million people a year visit our federal public lands, pumping $41 billion into the U.S. economy. But the real benefit is in giving Americans pride in our national heritage – our beautiful public lands –and an appreciation for the wonders of nature. Indeed, many species of wildlife could well go extinct if the federal government stopped protecting millions of acres of public lands.

Rogers concludes, “Rather than selling off the lands we all own…our leaders should listen to voters and find ways to protect more of the places that make America special.”

This is truly a slap in the face of Theodore Roosevelt and the United States of America!

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It’s perfectly possible that if areas were turned over to the state of California it could sell or close some of these places – remember the state already tried to shut down 70 state parks a few years ago and a handful DID close down. If some of the properties were turned over to counties or cities during cash-strapped times they could similarly be disposed of.  We didn’t say this WOULD happen but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that it COULD which is the word we used.

Places people care about across the nation would be put at risk, with zero guarantee that they would be preserved, if the current majority in Congress has its way.  We would have reported this regardless of which party was responsible, and have in fact reported on plenty of controversies involving Democrats such as f destruction of public lands for energy projects that the Obama administration has authorized — Ocotillo wind on BLM . land is one we’ve had a lot of critical coverage of, in fact it is not producting the power promised (it’s been called a fraudulent project by prominent energy experts) and has caused a lot of harm, and the Democrats were to blame for that one, as we reported on repeatedly.  We’ve had critical coverage of a project approved in McCain Valley as well.

We also ran a story that exposed issues in Governor Brown’s administration after a whistleblower told us about State Parks being ordered to suppress a report on negative impacts of the Ocotillo project on Anza Borrego Desert State Park, as well as concerns/criticisms of citizens over Brown denigrating people in East County protesting against Sunrise Powerlink which had negative impacts on Cleveland National Forest public lands and other areas.  Brown is a Democrat, again, our responsibility is to publish truth about impacts and potential impacts of decisions made by our public officials, regardless of their political parties.

As press we cannot put blinders on regarding issues that impact the public, such as loss of public lands.  We’ve been equally hard on both parties over public lands issues, but perhaps you are a new reader and have not seen our very long history of reporting on local public land controversies, for which we have won many top journalism prizes from Society of Professional Journalists and San Diego Press Club, as well as an international environmental reporting prize. Most of those stories were regarding bad policies and even allegations of corruptions by a Democratic administration, ie putting a former Sempra Energy lobbyist in as number two in charge at the Interior Dept..and politicians on both sides taking big contributions from energy corporations and turning a blind eye to impacts of those projects in their districts. We don’t play favorites with anyone here.

Anyone not tied to special interests or blinded by partisan loyalty should want the press to publicize actions that are so controversial and with such massive potential negative impacts.  It’s called public interest reporting, and it’s exactly what more media should be doing.You are way off base

 

 

 

 

 

Resources/Related:

H.R.3650 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): State National Forest …

State National Forest Management Act of 2015 (H.R. 3650) – GovTrack ..

HR 2316 – House Committee on Natural Resources

H.R. 3650 State National Forest Management Act of 2015 | POPVOX

HR 3650 Is Threatening Our Public Lands

Our Land, Up for Grabs – The New York Times

The Trust for Public Land

GENERAL PLAN – ENVIRONMENTAL IMP

Conservation fund gets 3-year lifeline in spending bill | TheHill

The Rise to Power of the Congressional Anti-Parks Caucus | Center …

Newer Posts – TRCP Blog – Theodore Roosevelt Conservation …

public lands – Intelligent Discontent

This Land Was Your Land – The American Prospect

Selling Public Land

Legislation for Land and Water Conservation Fund – for LWCF

The Rise to Power of the Congressional Anti-Parks Caucus | Center …

House considers devastating public lands takeover bills | Wilderness.org

Facts vs. Myths about America’s Public Lands | Wilderness.org

California Integrated Resource Management Plan

california interagency mobilization guide 2016 – National Geographic

Selling public lands | East County Magazine

Congress Passes Measure to Allow Selling off National Forests and …

This Land Was Your Land: East County Suffers Loss Of Our Public

The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun | Outside Online

East County Magazine | Back Country Voices

Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act … – Lisa’s leaks

California Sovereign Lands | Lisa’s leaks – ‘Madness in the Magnolias’

Back Country Voices | Citizen’s Action Group

Sunrise Powerlink | East County Magazine

CPUC Alpine EMF Report_June2016 – Alpine Education Foundation

ocotillo wind energy facility plan of development – Bureau of Land .

Ocotillo Underscores Challenges Of Developing On Public Lands

WIND: Interior ignored tribal concerns about wind farm impacts …

P1_Megan Ahn.txt – Notepad – FTP Directory Listing

In the Fight for Public Lands, the Outdoor Industry Is a Rising Force .

Desert Update Summer 2015 by Anza-Borrego Foundation – issuu

Email from the San Diego Backcountry… – San Diego Mountain Biking ..

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