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Threats to Public Lands

Our public lands belong to all Americans, but these lands are under attack.

Our National Public Lands are at Risk

Throughout the West, a network of special interest groups and politicians are attempting to dispose of national public lands to state, local, and private control. Dozens of bills to achieve this goal have been introduced in state legislatures, and the debate has even reached the U.S. Congress, which has taken steps to undermine our system of public lands.

Studies have shown that efforts to dispose of national public lands to the states would reduce access for recreation, hunting, and fishing—that’s why sportsmen and outdoor groups have fought strongly against such proposals. Additionally, economic analyses demonstrate that states could only afford the costs of managing public lands under extremely unrealistic and idealized scenarios. If land seizure proponents are successful, Western taxpayers would be saddled with the costly burden of wildfire prevention on public lands.

These political attacks on American public lands are an affront to our heritage and to the collaborative spirit needed to manage our lands and resources wisely for this and future generations.

Here are some key facts:

  • 56 percent of Western voters oppose disposing of national public lands to state hands, only 37 percent of voters are supportive of the proposal.

  • More than two-thirds of Western voters believe that national public lands belong to all Americans and not just to the residents of a particular state.

  • During the 2016 legislative session, 22 land seizure bills were introduced, all but six failed. Of the six that passed, five were in Utah.

  • The American Constitution Society analyzed the constitutionality of land transfers, and determined that “states have no constitutional power to force federal land transfers.”

  • Sportsmen like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the National Wildlife Federation have opposed transferring public lands to the state, and outdoor enthusiasts and have rallied against it in six Western capitals.

  • Between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. Forest Service spent over $6 billion suppressing wildfires on Western public lands. If land seizure proponents are successful, these costs would fall to Western taxpayers.

  • Western politicians have spent a combined hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to study selling off or giving away national public lands andcould spend millions more.
  • The land seizure movement is rooted in extremist ideologies like county supremacy and “coordination.”