This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.
You’ve probably heard by now that the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office came out with a report last week detailing the potential impacts of transferring about half of all federal lands here to state control.
This is an issue because people all over the West are feeling the pain of being cut off from the land they love — and need — whether to make a living or recreate … and just to live a happy and fulfilling life.
And the truth is, the only one cutting off access to public lands right now is the federal government. Unless you’re young, wealthy, and healthy enough to get the gear and time to trek in, you’re seeing your access reduced by either regulatory and legal hurdles, or actual chains being put up across roads and trails.
These policies are being forced on us by people in far off Washington, D.C., who know nothing of the rural production economy … what it makes, how it runs … or the families who choose to live and work in it.
These D.C. landlords serve a different master and have different priorities. They’re an interest group as powerful as any in the nation, but funded by you. And their interests don’t match those of the people who live and work on the lands they manage.
The Utah report weighs in at around 800 pages, so I can’t even do a fair job of summarizing it in the four minutes I’ve got here. But its conclusion – arrived at by economists and scientists from three Utah universities – is that, yes, Utah can manage those lands in an economical and balanced way without sacrificing the beauty of the state, its quality of life, or its attraction to tourists and recreationists from around the world. And it can even turn (trigger alert, I’m going to use a word that some in the environmental activist community might find offensive and cause the vapors) [Utah can turn] a profit to help pay for other state needs in the process.
Cue the hue and cry from the for-profit environmental movement. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Center for Western Priorities, apparently after reading their own press releases instead of the actual study, immediately responded with boilerplate talking points and cherry-picked data respectively in their attempts to discredit the report.
I can only imagine the munificent praise they would have bestowed on the report’s authors if they had arrived at opposite conclusions, but good on those researchers for following the data despite the shunning it’s bound to cause them at their faculty Christmas parties.
In truth, as the study shows, what the lands transfer initiative is trying to accomplish isn’t a seizure or a grab. It’s a process that will take years of study, collaboration and, probably lawsuits. I’ll let you gauge the intentions of those who don’t even want to see the process move forward by just getting the information we need to make good decisions. Shooting the messenger or misrepresenting the findings may slow the process down, but it won’t add value to the conversation.
Despite the claims of the naysayers, reputable constitutional scholars have published articles in reputable legal journals saying that a federal lands transfer has a fair shot at succeeding. Is that a slam dunk? No. But it’s a fair shot. That’s more than we’re getting now.
And this new study shows that, while states can’t afford to manage federal lands like they’re being managed now — with dense overgrown forests waiting to burn, ruined watersheds, volumes of regulations and a lawsuit around every corner — they can afford to manage them in a responsible and balanced way.
And finally, and this is the aspect that I think will be key, states can respect existing rights and traditional uses, whether they be economic, or recreational and aesthetic.
And that’s the right thing to do so people should insist on it.
But we shouldn’t have to be forced into false choices. It’s people who don’t know the land, who don’t share the same values, who are forcing us to take action. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
We all want similar things: to earn our success, to raise our families, grow our communities, to be happy. But we can’t do that if others are able to impose their priorities and their values on us. We need to restore a balance by restoring control of our lands.
– See more at: http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2014/12/10/land-transfer-would-be-a-process-not-a-grab-sutherland-soapbox-12914/#sthash.9D5YELw4.dpuf