June 23, 2016
RMEF on Public Lands Transfer
MISSOULA, Mont.—In light of recent legislative efforts seeking the sale or transfer of federal lands to state ownership, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation strongly maintains its opposition to such proposals.
“Nearly one-third of our nation’s land is in public ownership and that includes the majority of key elk habitat,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Transferring or selling these lands to states will do nothing to solve federal land management issues. It may also close the door to public access for hunters, anglers, hikers and others. We all want better public lands but this concept is not the answer. We take this issue very serious.”
RMEF Land Transfer Official Position
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation remains opposed to the wholesale disposal, sale or transfer of federal land holdings. Federal public lands comprise vital habitat for elk and other wildlife species. They are where we hunt, fish, camp, hike, ride and recreate. Transferring ownership of federal lands to states is not a solution to federal land management issues; it is a shell game to avoid the heavy lifting of establishing proactive land management policies in the US.
What is the core issue motivating the transfer of these lands?
Lack of Active Management. People are frustrated with public land management for a variety of reasons, including: catastrophic wildfires, diminished access for recreation and sustainable resource development, incoherent game management policies that favor individual species over balanced wildlife conservation, endless litigation preventing active land management, executive orders creating national monuments and more.
What prevents active management of these lands?
Lawsuits – This is the era void of adult conversations taking place, avoiding any balanced remedies achieved. There are others who subscribe to “keep land management issues tied up in litigation” while the clock runs out; no matter what, do not negotiate, compromise or work together and nothing changes. Sadly, this is the era of political posturing using our natural resources as pawns; meanwhile the greater American outdoors is losing and so is the public. An overreaching use of environmental agendas exists to eliminate any consideration of multiple use in many public forests and the health of those national forests is suffering as a result.
Lack of Resolve – Some within public land management fundamentally oppose active management of forest and range resources in favor of “preserving landscapes.” RMEF believes certain landscapes must be conserved and managed to develop the types of diverse ecosystems elk and other wildlife need to thrive. Man inhabits the landscape thus we have an obligation to steward and manage our natural resources. Additionally, there is a diverse public who wish to recreate in the outdoors yet many are being restricted or limited today by special interests and agendas that strive to either substantially diminish use of our public lands or eliminate it all together.
Why can’t states manage these lands?
States cannot afford to manage federal lands on multiple levels. Land transfer proponents argue states can manage lands at less cost per acre than do their federal counterparts, while at the same time generating revenues for economic development and public schools through a “best use” determination.
Recent studies show states would need to increase timber harvests, mineral and other resource development well beyond sustainable levels to afford the management of these lands. And states would be forced to defend the same frivolous lawsuits the federal government currently faces, not to mention adherence to overreaching uses of the Endangered Species Act and other federal policies are not being discussed.
One question not being addressed at all is what will happen to hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, grazing and other current public land uses in some states should those states assume control over 100 percent of public lands within their borders? The simple answer is those activities will soon cease, causing a cascade of other complications and issues for wildlife and our public lands. The simple truth is groups like the Humane Society of United States (HSUS) and others would relish the idea of exerting political influence and litigation in various states to eliminate many uses of our public lands. This must never happen.
What are the solutions?
First, acknowledging the true problem is a must. We have critical land management issues that require solutions. Second, a commitment to truly resolve these issues must supersede special interests. RMEF believes the solutions lie in addressing obstacles to pro-active land management and providing federal land agencies the leadership, tools and direction to properly manage lands for a variety of environmental, recreational and economic interests.
A true dialogue and course of action to provide real forest management reform and multiple uses of public lands and forests is a must. The shell game of transferring or selling public lands is not a solution. These are public lands, owned by the public and it must remain that way.