The opinion piece below makes one really important point: Public lands belong to the American people. All of us. If states obtain these lands, they will likely sell them off. Unfortunately, we are seeing disgraceful corporate exploitation of public lands under the BLM and Forest Service, as well. But we know things would be worse for the wild horses and burros if public lands were under control of states. – Debbie
By Riley McClelland
National forests and Bureau of Land Management lands belong to all of us. They do not and should not belong to the states in which they exist. These federal lands are much too important to be managed by state agencies guided by politicians. With federal ownership, each of us has a potential say in how these great landscapes are managed, no matter their location.
Transferring federal lands to the states could bring back the disgraceful corporate exploitation that occurred throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. Forests were plundered for timber, minerals, land speculation, and other utilitarian interests, without regard to the long-term interests of the general public. This land abuse motivated Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot to successfully fight for the establishment of forest reserves, national forests, and the U.S. Forest Service. In his first annual address to Congress (1901), Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said: “The forest reserves should be set apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few.”
It is true that there have been plenty of problems in the management of federal lands — for example the “timber mining” that occurred in the Bitterroot National Forest in the 1950s and 1960s (refer to the Bolle Report (1970), “A University View of the Forest Service,” Senate Doc. 91-115). Currently, the Forest Service and BLM are underfunded in critical programs. As a result, law violators go unprosecuted. Impacts of proposed timber sales, roads, mines, and motorized use are inadequately evaluated. Incomplete evaluation results in successful litigation by organizations, demonstrating that the agencies are not doing a satisfactory job in those cases.
Existing problems could be resolved by a Congress interested in furthering natural resource conservation. Federal management of public lands would greatly improve if agencies were properly funded and enabled to consistently follow sound ecological principles, rather than being pressured to adopt political goals. There is no way that state legislatures would improve the funding for managing these lands (note the failure to properly fund the state park system!). This would create an obvious rationalization for selling valuable parcels.
Read the rest of this opinion piece HERE.