– Photo: This land is your land. Literally. The federal government holds it in trust for your use, and funds derived from it are spent on public projects. You can (and do) visit it to hike, climb, paddle, hunt, explore, fish, and do pretty much anything else outdoors; it’s a crucial part of both our national identity, and our daily lives. Photo: Chris Brinlee Jr.
House bill to sell national forests passes committee
Without demonstrable public will and with strong opposition from environmentalists, hunters, anglers, the Department of the Interior, and the outdoor recreation industry, among others, Republican lawmakers are attempting to transfer control of your public lands from federal to state governments in a thinly-veiled attempt to force their sale for purposes of resource exploitation. Now, the first blow has been struck.
Last week, the House committee on Natural Resources voted to adopt HR 3650, the summary of which reads:
“This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, to convey to a state up to 2 million acres of eligible portions of the National Forest System (NFS) in it that it elects to acquire through enactment by the state legislature of a bill meeting certain criteria. Portions of the NFS conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.”
It’s hard to discuss this issue without appearing partisan. While opposition to the land heist is bipartisan, support for it comes exclusively from Republican lawmakers, and the corporations which fund them. HR 3650 passed committee with the support of all but one Republican congressman, every Democrat on the committee opposed it. Last year, SA 838, which called for the sale of national forests and other public lands, was also unanimously supported by Republicans, and unanimously opposed by everyone else.
Timber production itself isn’t the issue here. In 2014, the federal government raised $202,721,030.86 by selling timber from national forests. Rather than the states rights issue supporting lawmakers are painting it as, this move to transfer ownership of your public lands to states is instead widely understood as an effort to force its sale. According to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, who has spoken out strongly against the heist, states couldn’t even afford the annual firefighting budget such large tracts of land require, positively guaranteeing their sale to private interests.
– Photo: Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, speaks at a news conference in the Harney County Courthouse in Burns on Monday, March 21, 2016. Jewell and Mike Connor, the department’s deputy director, met with local government officials, federal employees and tribal members for briefings on the impact of the wildlife refuge occupation.
Why is private ownership of vast tracts of land you currently own bad? Well, it’s historically been demonstrated to reduce public access, and moves the land out of any unified, managed or regulated conservation program. Yes, there is a significant financial gain to be had by selling these lands, but that’s a one-off instance of profit from lands that currently contribute massively to local, state, and the national economy. The outdoor recreation industry alone, which relies on land access to exist, employs 6.1 million Americans and contributes $650 billion to the economy annually. The land where you and I currently go to camp, climb, cycle, hike, hunt, fish, and paddle is under threat.
The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—an organization of hunters and fishermen—called the bill an “overt attempt to undermine public land ownership.” Its president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh, went on to state, “Make no mistake, these are the first votes on legislation that would legitimize the wholesale transfer or sale of America’s public lands.”
In fact, the heist is so blatantly anti-American that even Donald Trump opposes it. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump told Field & Stream. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”
Why Public Land Is Important
“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.” — Theodore Roosevelt
“Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.” — George B Hartzog, Jr.
“The fundamental idea…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” — John F. Kennedy
Public Lands: Where Our Adventures Happen
Want to learn more, or work to keep these lands? Visit ProtectOurPublicLand.org.
There’s evidence that some of the most fierce protectors of public lands are sports fishers and hunters. You can find case’s where the hunters in a particular area want the elk or deer populations somewhat higher than would be truly sustainable (makes them easier to find) but on the whole, I’d listen to what these guys have to say. Welfare Ranching – Angelfire)
If you don’t like the way the Feds enforce the land laws, then just pass a law that forbids them from enforcing the land laws: After Bundy Clashes, House GOPers Push Bill To Kneecap Feds On …
Our governments politicians only value their individual profits and John McCain, you’re on the way out. You stole this sacred land and kept it secret while doing so. But the clock is ticking on the oligarchys rule and we’re going to sweep the deck clean of you leeches.