“THE UNITED STATES CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO KEEP TENS OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF ‘PUBLIC’ LAND LOCKED UP AND OUT OF SERVICE.”
It’s true that some federal land is difficult for outdoorsmen and women to access. Federal wilderness areas are off-limits to motorized vehicles, and other lands have travel restrictions. Other public lands are islands surrounded by private land. But the notion that federal land is “locked up” and not being utilized is patently untrue. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, some 5 million hunters annually use public lands, not to mention millions more anglers, bird-watchers, and hikers. As for natural resource extraction, the Office of Natural Resource Revenue reports oil companies pumped 455,000 barrels of crude oil from federal public lands every day in 2015 (the most recent data available). The BLM leases 155 million acres for livestock grazing. America’s public lands are being used for resources and recreation. The challenge is balancing demand for these with the needs of fish and wildlife.
ROBERT H. NELSON, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE INDEPENDENT INSTITUTE OF OAKLAND, MARCH 2012