National Wildlife Federation to Republican National Committee: Rescind Your Resolution on Public Lands

Aug 14, 2014

By Center for Western Priorities

The National Wildlife Federation, one of the nation’s oldest sportsmen and conservation groups, released a letter this morning from 41 of its state affiliates calling on the Republican National Committee to “rescind” a resolution that it passed in January 2014 endorsing state efforts to seize public lands.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined NWF in a press call to release the letter, and firmly called on politicians to reject these ideas.  As he stated:

The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of each and every one of us Americans.  They do not belong to any one state.

The very existence of federal public lands is an extraordinarily important resource to sportsmen.  As seen in the chart below, which uses data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than half of sportsmen in Western states use public lands for hunting.

 Sportsmen

NWF’s letter to the RNC laid this point out clearly, stating:

…many of our members and supporters are conservatives who hunt, fish and recreate on these public lands, contributing to the outdoor recreation economy. For decades we have consistently opposed the liquidation, disposal, or transfer of our federal public lands.

Also of note is that in July, all 49 state affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation unanimously agreed to their own resolution firmly opposing the disposal of public lands.  The groups noted in their resolution that:

…wholesale exchange, sale or giveaway of millions of acres of federal public lands, whether to states or private entities, is unnecessary and constitutes an irretrievable loss to all citizens of this nation as part of their national heritage.

Despite NWF’s efforts, and the fact that 74 percent of voters in six Western states oppose selling off public lands, this idea stubbornly continues to be a part of the public discourse.  For example:

–  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), recently attempted to attach an amendment to a bipartisan sportsmen’s bill that would have forced the federal government to sell off public lands in states where more than 50 percent of lands were managed by the federal government (which are Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah).

–   A handful of legislators in nine Western states—and particularly in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming—are leading efforts demanding that the federal government turn public lands over to the states or else they will sue.

–  Journalists have questioned a number of candidates for office about their opinions on the issue, including in Wyoming and Montana.

Rather than continuing to entertain this expensive, unpopular, and unconstitutional idea, elected officials should instead focus on real, collaborative solutions to issues with public lands management.