WHY SHOULDN’T STATES TAKE CONTROL OF FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS? THIS CHART SHOWS HOW STATES ALREADY BOOT SPORTSMEN OFF AREAS THEY MANAGE. NO ONE KNOWS THE TERMS OF FUTURE TRANSFERS, BUT IF THE PAST IS A GUIDE, PUBLIC HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS WILL BE LOST
THE FEDS ONCE MANAGED EVERYTHING.
Through the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican Cession, and other such agreements, the federal government acquired all U.S. Western territory, totaling about 1.8 billion acres. The feds manage what remains of this land for multiple use, balancing recreation, industry, and wildlife and resource protection.
THEN THE FEDS GAVE LANDS TO STATES.
As Western states entered the Union, the federal government granted them lands to help finance public schools and institutions. These lands are held in public trusts and must generate revenue for the states. States make a profit off these lands in one of two ways:
STATES LEASE THE LANDS.
Timber, mining, livestock, oil, and gas companies pay for the rights to use public-trust lands, generating money for states. Though still in the public trust, leased lands create problems for animals, the environment, and sportsmen.
STATES LIQUIDATE THE LAND.
Selling land outright affords states a fast way to make money. States auction certain parcels for many reasons, including perceived buyer interest, but it all comes down to cash. What does this mean for sportsmen?
LANDS LOSE VALUE.
The energy, mineral, and timber industries are all subject to boom-andbust cycles. When demand drops, the lands lose leasing potential. These industries can also impact resource quality, making lands undesirable for future leasing or development.
UPKEEP IS TOO EXPENSIVE.
When lands are no longer profitable, states can’t or won’t cover the costs of managing them. And if industries go bust, states must bear the land-reclamation costs, another incentive to cash out.
WILDLIFE IS AT RISK.
Development can displace wildlife. Parcels sold in recent years have included choice elk, pronghorn, mule deer, and upland bird habitat.
STATES LIMIT ACCESS.
Western states— unlike the feds, who also lease property for gas and oil development—do not have to manage their lands for multiple use, which means they can boot you, and often do. If states do permit access, they often charge fees and restrict hunting. (See “Ground Rules.”)
Today, large corporations are buying up much of the available public-trust lands, uprooting wildlife and cutting off sportsmen and the public.
Once sold, lands are off-limits, and if they’re leased, hunting and fishing is often restricted. Legislators have touted the trust model’s success, so there’s little reason to think states wouldn’t cash in on our national lands.