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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


After the election: what you need to know about the public land heist now

Tania Lown-Hecht


Since the election last week, Outdoor Alliance has seen an outpouring of questions from the outdoor community about the future of our public lands. One of the biggest issues Outdoor Alliance is concerned about, and working most closely on, is the public land heist.

If you’re just tuning in, here are the most important things to know about the public land heist, plus 3 things you can do to help:

  • The public land heist is a movement to transfer public lands to state governments where they are likely to be immediately threatened by development or outright sale. Right now, Americans collectively own millions of acres of public land. Public ownership means we have a right to access these places, and a guaranteed say in how they are managed. In contrast, state lands are not public lands, and are not subject to the same rules. Most state-owned lands are more like private land. A good example is Colorado, where "state trust land is not open for public recreational use. Unless a private individual has offered to pay for the right […] the land is just as off limits to the public as a piece of private land.”
  • The reason why so many outdoor groups and outdoor businesses are concerned about the public land heist is because it is a clear precursor to increased development or outright sale. States frequently sell off or lease their land, especially during budget deficits. One recent example is Comb Ridge, a popular piece of state land in Utah. The state just auctioned off Comb Ridge to a private buyer, closing off access to the public lands just beyond it.
  • Over the past two years, over a dozen states and even Congress have introduced, advanced, and even passed bills that aim to transfer or privatize public land. (You can see more about these bills here). These bills range in their severity and approach to privatization: some of these bills claim to “study” transfer, some want to transfer jurisdiction during emergencies, and some are very straightforward, demanding that the public hand over all national lands for states to sell off and distribute the proceeds.
  • Outdoor Alliance has been a leading voice on the public land heist since it first started to bubble up a year and a half ago. We have worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans to keep public lands in public hands. While many Republicans have publicly opposed these efforts, the 2016 Republican Party platform included a plank promising to dispose of American public lands to state governments.
  • Unlike many of his primary rivals, Donald Trump has said that he opposes turning over public lands to the states; recently, though, he has shown signs of walking back this commitment. It will be up to all of us to help educate him and his administration on this issue.

We’ve written quite a bit about the public land heist (here’s a full list of the posts) and we’ve been running the Protect Public Lands campaign for over a year, along with over 50 outdoor businesses and nonprofit organizations. Going forward, we will need the voice of the outdoor community more than ever. We are a bipartisan community, and our stories about what public lands mean to us and to our families are going to have an important role to play in educating incoming policymakers about how to protect these places going forward.

Want to take action?

We really need your help. Here are 3 big things you can do right now:

  1. Sign the petition. By signing, we promise to keep you in the loop about local actions. This ranges from bills in your state legislature to national policy issues where your voice might matter more than usual (say, when your member of Congress is on an important committee).
  2. Share the issue with friends and family. The politicians pushing these ideas are counting on Americans not to be paying attention. Help us get the word out by sharing the campaign site and asking people to sign.
  3. Contact your lawmakers directly. We built an easy-to-use tool here to locate your representative and send a message about public lands. It’s also great to call your representative’s office (find the number here).

Bonus: donations are also hugely helpful, since running a campaign of this size across the country demands a ton of time and resources. Financial support helps us focus on what matters: tracking legislation, helping the public take action, and working with allies to protect the places we love.