Pondering: Land & Politics

I had a completely different post planned for today, but then this article came into my Inbox. This isn’t a new idea – the transfer of federal lands over to state control. Several Western states have been trying to pass legislation for years. What concerns me now is that there are those in federal government that want to help the states do just that.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an environmental consultant who helps (primarily) with the process of leasing federal lands for private projects. This includes everything from solar and wind to utility lines and oil & gas. I don’t have much say in the type of projects I work on, so I just try to go in with the mindset that if something has to happen on these lands, I can at least help it get done in the best way possible.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, Sunset

Grand Canyon, South Rim

My point is, I work with federal lands and federal agencies. I’ve also worked with state lands and state agencies (same for counties and cities come to that). I have seen firsthand the checks and balances in play at every level. And there is no way, given what I have experienced, that I could see how to justify allowing states to take over federal land. The fact that it’s a federal body assisting with the idea would be laughable if it weren’t such a non-laughing matter.

Setting aside the myriad of constitutional issues, it’s poor management protocol*. States are having difficulties keeping local parks open still. Local rules are also, generally, much less restrictive when it comes to land use and selling lands. Can you imagine having a Wal-Mart along the south rim of the Grand Canyon? Maybe you think I’m being over-dramatic in that statement, but I assure you I am not. Most arguments in favor of this movement claim that the federal government is preventing the state from using resources to bring in income – generally through tourism, development, and mineral resources (read hotels, shopping, and wells). There are a few states where state law actually strengthens federal, but in most instances it’s the other way around. And the latter states are – of course – the ones most up in arms about all of this.

I know that it’s impossible to make everyone happy when it comes to deciding what to do – or not – on public lands. However, that’s not always a bad thing. If you have a park, forest, monument, etc. managed for all of the people of this country, then we all have a say. And, believe it or not, the federal agencies do listen to us. I’ve been in meetings that have literally taken days, going through comments received from all over the world. I have tracked down those international contacts to make sure they know what’s going on. And this is done for the greater good, to prevent any one small group from controlling something so special that it was set aside for the enjoyment of all. I have also seen this process at local levels…

Yellowstone National Park, Roosevelt Arch, Elk

“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people” (Yellowstone, Roosevelt Arch)

Ugh. There’s so much I could say, but I don’t want this to turn into a rant (at least no more than it has already). We are each entitled to our own opinion – the beauty in living in the United States. All I can hope is that those opinions are founded on research and an understanding of the greater whole.

So what can be done about this? In truth, I don’t know. People will tell you to write your representatives, but given the leanings of those from my state, I have little faith in that being a productive exercise. I’m still researching other options. And I encourage all of you to do the same, no matter your opinion. I’m going to include some links to other articles here as well – I encourage you to click through a few of them. You might just be surprised at who supports which position.

*Note: Allow me to clarify that I believe the state and local governments do the best they can with what they have. But the process is often less clear and underfunded. I support land ownership at all levels, just not such a dramatic change in that ownership.

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