Flathead River in NW Montana photo credit: skeeze/Pixabay
Right now, advocates for transferring Western public lands
to state governments have a newfound sense of confidence as they gear up their
lobbying campaigns. And why not? After the acquittal of Ammon and Ryan Bundy
for their roles in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
and the election of Donald Trump, the organizations seeking to take our public
lands and the extraction industries that fund them believe they have momentum
on their side.
It’s all too clear what would happen if the lands transfer
movement is successful: Clean water and air, healthy wildlife and people—all
would be pushed aside for the almighty dollar. States would look to generate maximum
revenue from their newly-acquired property, so grazing, logging, mining, and fossil
fuel development on those lands would expand beyond their current distressing
levels. At the same time oversight of these damaging industries would decline,
as states lack the funding, regulations, and will to police them. And what if
unfettered resource extraction on the public lands doesn’t provide the revenue
that the states hoped for? Or a catastrophic fire season wipes out state land
agencies’ budgets? The lands would be sold off to the highest bidder and access
to public lands would be something to reminisce about.
Those of us who believe public lands are our birthright,
that our public land heritage should be passed on to future generations of Americans,
need to fight back. We’re a majority, but we can’t be complacent. We need to
make our voices heard. Please contact your senators and representative to let
them know that you adamantly oppose any attempt to take away our public lands.