Thehill.com - Full Article
By Whit Fosburgh
In his Oct. 6 blog post, “A local approach to our public lands,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) wrote that “not only can states manage public lands, they can do it for less money and with better results” and that wildfire management, grazing allocations, and energy policy would all be running smoothly, if only the states were in charge.
While I can’t defend every action of the federal government, the notion that our federal lands would be better managed by individual states is fundamentally flawed.
America’s public lands system was developed more than 100 years ago by leading conservationists, like Theodore Roosevelt, who witnessed the destruction of our lands and waters in an unsustainable system of unregulated mining, overgrazing, and overcutting. They acted to create a national system of public lands that could be utilized for the benefit of the American public for generations to come.
America’s 438 million public acres of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands are managed under the principles of multiple-use and sustained yield. Under a multiple-use mandate, public lands must be managed for many different uses, including energy and fiber production, outdoor recreation, and habitat improvement, so as to best meet the needs of the American people. Sustained yield requires that resources taken from those lands be done in a sustainable manner, so as not to deplete the resource over time. It doesn’t matter if you are an off-road vehicle enthusiast from Utah, a birdwatcher from Wyoming, or a rancher whose cattle grazes public lands in Montana, this system finds a place for all of us.
By calling for the handover of federal lands and their management to individual states, Stewart and his allies are essentially calling for an end to the sustainable management of our public lands, and a return to the 19th century approach of short-term profiteering at the expense of the American people. Here’s why: All of the Western states require in their constitutions that state lands be managed to maximize profit. Under this model, lands that can’t produce maximum coal, timber, energy, or grazing leases are sold off to the highest bidder...
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