If you love the outdoors like we do, you treasure your right to access the parks, forests, rivers, plains, and wilds of this country, especially in the west. Right now, outdoor enthusiasts face a very real threat that the places we go to climb, paddle, hike, camp, bike, and ski will be lost for good. An aggressive campaign to transfer public lands to western state governments puts millions of acres of national public land at risk of being privatized, developed, or sold off.
In 2015, 11 western states considered legislation that would dispose of millions of acres of national public land to state governments. This “land transfer movement” is the brainchild of a few shadowy special interest groups, including the American Lands Council. Their aim is to sell off public land to generate profit for individual states or private entities, and they have had surprising traction peddling model legislation to counties and state legislatures across the west. Last spring, the Senate even passed a bill that would facilitate land sell-offs across the west.
Over the summer summer, we shared the five most important things to know about the public land heist, but what’s been happening since then? Outdoor Alliance has been following the issue closely and has identified four major developments in 2016:
1. A number of presidential candidates have endorsed selling off public lands. On both sides of the aisle, some candidates have rejected land transfer proposals, but others have been vocal that public lands should be transferred or sold.
2. The standoff at a wildlife refuge near Malheur, Oregon brought public attention to the extremist fringe of the movement gunning for an end to public ownership of American lands.
3. Land takeover bills continue to pour in at the state level. Last year, western states considered more than 35 bills proposing to transfer or sell off public lands. In 2016, there are 16 bills in state legislatures (see them all here). Wyoming recently voted on 2 of the worst land takeover bills we’ve seen.
4. The U.S. House is considering 3 bills that would dispose of National Forests to states for the express purpose of intensive logging.
The architects behind the public land heist are getting smarter and the new bills they are feeding to state legislatures sometimes arrive in disguise – like bills that propose spending millions to “study” land transfers or are packaged with other issues like wildfires. Using the guise of state’s rights rhetoric, these special interests are advancing what is baldly a land grab that would take what belongs to all Americans and put it in the hands of a few private interests.
The idea that we should sell off public lands for profit is a threat to the landscapes we love and a threat to the idea that underpins our public lands. America’s craggy mountains, golden plains, and rivers belong to all of us, whether we are New Yorkers or Montanans, whether we visit these places every year or hope that our children will someday see them.
Voice your support for public lands by signing the petition today. By signing, you will become part of a growing movement of people who are working together to keep public lands public.