5 Things You Should Know About the Public Lands Heist

A campaign to transfer public lands to state control threatens hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites across the Western US.
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
July 13, 2015

Have you heard about efforts in Western States, including Washington, to transfer federal public lands to the state? A campaign to transfer public lands to state control threatens hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites across the Western US.

This public land heist threatens the landscapes we love and the notion that public lands belong to everyone. America’s craggy mountains, golden plains, and rivers belong to all of us, whether we live in New York or Montana, whether we visit these places weekly or hope that our children will someday see them.

Imagine if the place where you love to hike, climb, paddle, ski, bike, or camp were suddenly sold off for profit, or to cover the cost of a wildfire or drought. Once our mountains, forests, and rivers are gone, there’s no replacing them.

5 Things You Should Know About the Public Lands Heist

  1.     America’s mountains, forests, and rivers belong to everyone.

Public lands belong to all Americans. They are home to stunning climbing, paddling, hiking, skiing, biking, and camping, as well as important habitat and ecological resources, that everyone can access. Together, Americans care for these special places, protecting them so that everyone can enjoy them, including the next generation. In contrast, State lands belong to the state government, not to U.S. citizens. 

2. Some politicians would like to sell off public lands to generate profit for individual states or private entities.

Right now, a handful of politicians backed by private interest groups, like the American Lands Council, have launched an aggressive campaign to dispose of America’s public lands. They have introduced dozens of bills in 11 western states that demand that the public “turn over” millions of acres of public land to state governments.

3.     State governments could privatize, sell, develop, or auction off our public lands to the highest bidder.

If our public lands were sold to state governments, they would be the responsibility of state taxpayers to maintain and protect. A single wildfire can cost $100 million to fight, which could force states to sell or auction off land to cover the costs. Imagine if the place you love to hike, climb, paddle, ski, bike, or camp were suddenly sold to a private landowner or a real estate developer.

4.     The public land heist is gaining momentum in western states and in Washington DC.

Although some state legislatures voted down land transfer bills, the idea of selling off public lands is gaining momentum. In Congress, a symbolic amendment supporting the sale of public lands passed this spring. These bills challenge the foundation that underpins National Parks, National Forests, and public access to wild places. The Public Land Heist is the most serious threat that has faced our public lands in a generation.

5.     We need to speak now to protect the places we love to play.

If our mountains, forests, and rivers are privatized or sold off, there’s no replacing them. Voice your support for public lands by signing the petition today. By signing, you will become part of a growing movement of people who are working together to keep public lands public. 

Here in Washington, there was a proposed study for the WA Department of Natural Resources to study the feasibility of acquiring certain federal lands. The  $500,000 budget line for this study was vetoed, sighting that “although additional information about land acquisitions is always helpful, the negative effects of forest health, and the resulting fire danger, are well documented. The Department’s primary responsibility is to support the trust beneficiaries, and this study will not support its obligation to generate revenue for school construction.”

This proposed study here in Washington highlights that while selling off our federal public lands might seem like a far-fetched idea, it is gaining traction. You can learn more about this issue and organizations, including The Mountaineers, that are coming together to speak out in support of keeping our public lands public. We encourage you to voice your support for public lands by signing the petition today.

We are proud to be partnering with the Outdoor Alliance on this issue.

 


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Timothy Newman
Timothy Newman says:
Sat, Aug 1, 2015 2:29 PM

The only thing more objectionable about your Big Government advocacy is that, as a condition of remaining a Mountaineers member, I am obligated to subsidize it.

Mark Lemon
Mark Lemon says:
Sun, Aug 2, 2015 6:30 PM

Well said Timothy. I echo your thoughts.

Amanda Barbee
Amanda Barbee says:
Mon, Aug 10, 2015 12:16 PM

The premise that the Federal Government is a more concerned "protector" of wildlife lands than our local government would be, is flawed.

Thomas O'Keefe
Thomas O'Keefe says:
Mon, Aug 17, 2015 12:20 PM

An important piece to note here is that Federal lands are managed for multiple use which includes outdoor recreation. State lands, by contrast, are typically managed to maximize revenue generation as a primary purpose. What that means is access can more easily be restricted and recreational interests are secondary. In addition, the public has less input on management and the ultimate fate of state lands.

Katherine Hollis
Katherine Hollis says:
Mon, Aug 17, 2015 12:21 PM

In terms of how our federal lands are managed – it’s incredibly decentralized. We know our local forest supervisors and park superintendents, and they run the show here in WA with a ton of public input. The Mountaineers have a long and rich history in with work and partnerships in supporting our land managers here in the PNW.