Think back to your favorite trips to the outdoors. Did you learn more about yourself, your companions, your world? Public lands (BLM land, national forests, designated wilderness, etc.) are where we go to camp, fish, hike, hunt, mountain bike, backpack, climb, boat, and spend time with family and friends. It’s where we go to escape the everyday monotony, to find solitude and peace and authenticity, and it’s why many of you moved to Colorado.
The lands that are so important and integral to our way of life in the Western United States are at stake. The State National Forest Management Act, also known by some as the Great Public Land Heist, aims to transfer federally-controlled national forest lands to state authority. Many states don’t have nearly enough funding to maintain the current public lands and this transfer would result in the forced sale of the land to the highest bidder. According to the Department of the Interior, which is one of the federal entities that manages this land, many states couldn’t even afford the wildland firefighting budget. Western states have already sold 39 percent of their designated land to private entities.
The legislation states that it will transfer 2 million acres to state control for timber harvesting, primarily. That’s almost the entire White River National Forest! Other potential endpoints for this land include private ownership and natural resource extraction. Proponents of this legislation argue that this transfer will create jobs and increase state revenue, but these are very short-term solutions to a problem that the land is actually already solving itself. Public lands are currently used for recreation, controlled timber harvesting, mining, livestock grazing, watershed and wildlife protection, and conservation. Leasing profits go directly to fund public schools. Visitors to these areas bring in tourism-related revenue to the gateway communities and outdoor recreation industry, which relies on the existence of these lands. Outdoor recreation is responsible for adding a total of $646 billion (Siler) to the national revenue and 6.1 million jobs every year. Massive transfers of public land will result in losing access to the pristine and invaluable lands that are owned collectively by you, me, and the American public.
We need to come together and create a strong voice that politicians have to listen to as this legislation is on its way to congress. We depend on these lands for things so much more valuable than money: mental health, physical health, making connections, pushing limits, and appreciating the lives we are so blessed to live.
Thank you for your consideration,