I am dedicated to habitat for all wildlife and the future of our hunting heritage. As such I cannot support the transfer of national public lands to the states. The issue is a complicated one, with lots of misinformation.
The issue of land transfer was pushed into the national spotlight during the Malheur wildlife refuge standoff in Oregon. However, this is a battle, which has been going on for decades. At times the debates intensify and the threat of land transfers becomes more of a threat, now is one of those times.
Currently there is a small but vocal group of elected officials at the local, state, and national levels calling for the transfer of lands. One of the most out spoken land transfer advocates in the United States Senate is former Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz
Advocates for the transfer of national public lands will point out the federal government does a poor job of managing public lands, and ads bureaucratic layers to management decisions. They tout how the states and local governments would be more responsive to the needs of the citizens than policy makers hundreds or thousands of mile away. Without any additional research this seems to be a reasonable belief.
However, start scratching beneath the surface and you will soon realize transferring public lands to the states could have dire consequences. Right off the bat there is a major difference between how land is managed by the federal government and states. Federal lands are managed for multiple uses. What this means is before a management decision is made policy makers need to consider how the decision will affect ranchers, loggers, energy and mineral extraction, and recreational use including hunting. In contrast several states have laws requiring management decisions be made in order to maximize profit from the land while not taking other factors into consideration.
Another concern to consider is historically when the federal government has transferred large amounts of land to state or local control the land is often either sold to private interest or closed to public access. The last concern I will point out is the states simply do not have the financial resources to manage large tracts of federal lands. Imagine how a state’s budget would be affected by paying for wildfire suppression during a particularly bad fire season.
Often the lawmakers in Washington who are proponents of transferring federal lands on the notion the US Forest Service and BLM cannot adequately manage the lands are the same politicians who vote to not properly fund these agencies. Consider that for a moment. If I want the public to support the idea of transferring land I have to show a reason why it is a good idea. I want to sell the public on the idea federal agencies are doing poor job managing the lands. How do I accomplish this? By financially starving the very agencies tasked with managing those lands making it impossible for them to properly manage the land.
The other thing to consider is where is the money coming from. The majority if not all of the politicians at the federal level who advocate transferring lands receive large donations from energy lobbyist and companies. For example Senator Cruz shows Wapiti Energy donated $43,150 to his campaign fund.* Wapiti Energy is an onshore drilling company concentrating its efforts in the Rocky Mountain Region, an area with huge amounts of public land.
One last thing I would like to point out is lobbyist have been spending money to harm the reputation of several well known conservation organizations in an attempt to paint them as far left liberal organizations. If you come across this type of information I ask you to critically examine the information and do your own research. The organizations targeted are the most vocal organizations against a federal land transfer. If you follow the money from one website that attacks these conservation organizations it will lead you back to a Washington lobbyist who represents the energy industry. Also look at the history of the conservation organization being attacked and ask yourself, do they have a record of standing up for sportsmen and habitat?
In closing I am not advocating Federal Land Management is prefect. It certainly can be improved and we should consider many different ideas on how to solve those problems. However, transferring federal lands to state and local control as proposed is not the answer. Also I am not saying politicians who support land transfer are inherently bad. I dislike their stance on the issue; I do not dislike the person. Disagreeing on issues and working together to solve issues is what makes America great.
I would urge you to contact your elected officials and let them know you oppose the transfer of public lands and demand they adequately funds the agencies with the responsibility of managing our federal public lands.
* The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.