The Republican dominated legislature of the State of Wisconsin passed legislation recently which has required it to sell off several hundred acres of public land. A number of other states are selling off public holdings as well in an attempt to balance budgets. Now the Congress is trying to have the federal government do the same. Republican Representatives Bob Bishop and Chris Stewart have created a congressional team to “develop a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control,” while Republican Representative Ted Poe has introduced the American Land Act which would require the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest System to sell about one-third of their holdings over a five year period. For now, the bill does not authorize the sale of land owned by the National Park Service of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The western states hold the bulk of America’s federal lands and it’s common knowledge that they, like Wisconsin, sell off their lands because they can’t afford to own and manage them. Do we honestly think they will be able to manage and protect federal lands transferred to them?
This past January, Colorado College issued “The 2016 Conservation in the West Poll;” the sixth annual survey. Voters opposed “giving state governments control over national lands” or “selling significant holdings of public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.” The poll also showed that most Westerners “favor greater protection and sensible use of the open lands and national treasures that define the region” including the development of energy resources. Further, many approved “the creation of new national monuments.”
Because most private interests don’t correlate with the needs of the natural environment, selling off these lands will likely mean further destruction and devastation to our environment. Yet, included as part of the GOP platform for 2016 is the call for all national and state leaders and representatives to mandate the transfer of public land to all willing states.
Most people think of wildlife and nature when they think of our national public lands and wilderness areas, but I also think of the biodiversity that makes up these lands and especially the native plants that make up their beauty and provide the habitat for their wildlife. Please make some time to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about transferring our national public lands to the states.