While the vast majority of public lands in the U.S. are out west, public lands mean a great deal to millions of us in the east. As the public land heist gains momentum in Congress, the future of our public lands is an issue with increasing relevance for all Americans. While the public land heist has so far been focused on Western public lands, recent bills in the House implicate National Forests all across the country, which would disproportionately affect millions of outdoor enthusiasts in the east who have far fewer public lands on which to recreate than their counterparts out west. Greater population centers in the east mean that existing public lands, including swaths in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, are extremely popular.
In addition, because public lands belong to all Americans, eastern and western, we all have an enormous stake in fighting to keep public lands publicly-owned and accessible.
Earlier this week, Outdoor Alliance welcomed recreation advocates from 5 eastern states to Washington, DC, where they hit the Hill to speak with legislators about the public land heist and the importance of public lands for outdoor enthusiasts in the east.
Because the public lands seizure movement has its genesis in the West—and is driven primarily by a handful of extreme Western voices, who are themselves radically out of step with their own constituents—we have worried that lawmakers in the East can defer to their Western colleagues on public lands issues. It’s important that folks who live in the East help to educate their lawmakers that this is an important issue for all of us.
Public lands all across the country belong to all Americans. These lands are a part of our common heritage, and we all help to foot the bill for their management costs. Turning these lands over to states, where they are likely to face immediate pressure for inappropriate development or outright sale, is a theft from all of us, no matter which state we live in.