Our public lands belong to all Americans, but access to these lands is under attack
Throughout the West, a network of special interest groups and politicians are attempting to dispose of national public lands, shifting them 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 in recent years has taken steps to undermine our system of public lands.
Studies have shown that efforts to dispose of national public lands to states would reduce access for recreation, hunting, and fishing—that’s why sportsmen and outdoor groups have fought 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 and mine cleanup on public lands.
The land seizure movement is rooted in extremist ideologies like county supremacy. This trend has continued, especially after courts dismissed criminal charges in the high-profile 2017 case against Ammon Bundy in Nevada. However, The American Constitution Society analyzed the constitutionality of land transfers, and determined that “states have no constitutional power to force federal land transfers.”
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 present and future generations.
1: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) (2019). “Federal Firefighting Costs (Suppression Only).”
2: Center for Western Priorities. (December 2, 2015). “The Mining Burden: states would shoulder significant costs of cleaning up abandoned mines if they take over American lands.”
3: Center for Western Priorities. (July 7, 2016). “Going to Extremes: the anti-government extremism behind the growing movement to seize America’s public lands.
4: State of the Rockies Project. (2019). Colorado College: “Conservation in the West Poll.”
5: State of the Rockies Project. (2017). Colorado College: “Conservation in the West Poll.”
6: State of the Rockies Project. (2015). Colorado College: “Conservation in the West Poll.”