Where is Your State When it Comes to Transferring and Auctioning Off Our National Public Lands?

Oct 23, 2014

By Center for Western Priorities

The Center for Western Priorities launched a new website today to give Westerners the facts about costly and unpopular proposals to hand our national public lands over to Western states.

AmericanPublicLands.com provides a summary of public opinion research showing how Westerners perceive efforts by states to take over national public lands, economic research on the costs of land transfers for Western taxpayers, the lack of legal merits of “transferring” national public lands to the states, and social media resources.

We specifically chose the URL “AmericanPublicLands.com” to emphasize a fact Westerner’s already know: our nation’s system of parks, monuments, forests, and wildlife refuges belong to all Americans. In fact, a recent poll shows that 72 percent of Western voters believe that America’s public lands should belong to all Americans, not just those of one state.

Despite all evidence to the contrary—including newspaper editorials and conservative organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation speaking out against them—those pushing for states to take over our national public lands, including all associated costs, continue to claim publicly that their efforts are “gaining momentum.”

But recent public opinion research tells a different story—Western voters don’t want to see national public lands managed by the states, and believe that our national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges rightfully belong to all Americans, not just those of a particular state.

AmericanPublicLands.com is a tool to find out exactly where these misguided efforts are in each Western state (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming). Each state is unique in how it is approaching this quixotic effort, from studying the merits of idea to passing legislation demanding the U.S. government “transfer” public lands to the state or else it will sue (as Utah did in 2012). But what’s unquestionable is that states cannot afford to take on management of national public lands, including fighting fire, without auctioning off lands, raising taxes, or raiding state budgets.

As the 2015 state legislative sessions begin, the Center for Western Priorities will continue to provide updated information at AmericanPublicLands.com.