Keep it public

Since the day Theodore Roosevelt proposed setting aside lands across the nation that would be accessible to all citizens, there have been people trying to take those public lands for their own reasons.

Being a native Wyomingite, I understand the distrust many people in the West hold for the federal government. There are certainly a lot of federal laws that don’t make any sense out here in the wide-open spaces of the West.

And there has always been a fight over the natural resources found on the federally owned lands throughout the country. Theodore Roosevelt’s motivation for creating the National Forest and National Park systems was to prevent the widespread clear-cutting that was going on in the timber industry at the time.

I think most rational people can agree that the rules and regulations for timber harvest on public lands have evolved over time to be both sustainable and still profitable for the timber companies. The same can be done for oil and gas exploration, which seems to be the driving force behind the most current attempts to wrest control over public lands.

It’s a highly complicated issue, but allow me to simplify it. If federal lands are transferred to the states, who will benefit? Will it be hunters and anglers who currently have about 25 million acres of federal land at their fingertips? Probably not. Ranchers who are allowed to lease public land for grazing – albeit while having to adhere to sometimes ridiculous rules? I don’t think so. The state, which will be forced to pay for the management of these lands that are currently funded by the national government? Definitely not. Because if the federal lands are transferred to the states, the financial burden will be too great. Those lands will be sold to the highest bidder – not to anyone you know.

At the moment, you are a public land owner. You have 623 million acres. Let’s keep it that way.

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