‘New Rebels’ Wanting States Rights Seek Control Of Federal Land
The States need control over their land and would be better stewards than some bureaucrats in DC.
Exhibit A: Indian Reservations. Exhibit B: Bundy Ranch standoff with the BLM.
A growing movement to transfer federal land to state control in Western states, where the federal government is a big landowner, is drawing comparisons to the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, and running into strong resistance from conservation and sportsmen groups.
At issue is who should control some 300 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the West.
Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored a land transfer bill that passed in that state, says federal land is in poor health, threatened by catastrophic wildfires and bugs, and not meeting its potential for generating revenue from timber, oil and other natural resources that could help Western economies.
Frustration has sparked renewed interest in state control, Ivory said.
“The discussion is intensifying in all of the Western states and beyond quite frankly,” Ivory said.
Jessica Goad, advocacy director for the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities, a conservation organization tracking the issue, said more than 40 transfer-related bills have been introduced in state legislatures in the West this year.[…]
Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, who pushed for a study of land transfer at the 2015 Montana Legislature, says concern for the health of the land and her community prompted her to get involved.
The movement has taken hold as people realize better decisions are made by people closest to the subject matter, Fielder said.
“The other reason is we’re experiencing such economic and environmental devastation as the result of very bad federal policies,” Fielder said.
The current movement for state control has similarities to the Sage Brush Rebellion of the 1970s, in which Westerners sought more local control of federal land within their borders, said Martin Nie, a professor of natural resource policy at the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation in Missoula.
He calls its supporters the “new rebels.”
“I have felt from the very beginning this is something that should be taken seriously, and I continue to believe that,” Nie, who is director of the university’s Bolle Center for People and Forests, said of the current efforts for more local control of public land. “Especially when you consider some of the efforts going on in D.C. simultaneously.”