Federal control of public lands is a hot-button issue, one that’s getting hotter as the West continues to grow. It’s been building a long time and won’t go away soon. There’s a foreboding threat of violence in the protests known as the Sagebrush Rebellion. This is an issue we need to study and resolve.
It began with The great migration of the 1800s which brought many people to the West Coast and the most hospitable areas of the west. But lots of wild land was passed over by our forefathers on their way west. Some of it still remains empty and undeveloped. These lands are under the control of the federal government, usually the Bureau of Land Management or the US Forest Service. Pressure has been building to develop theses lands but at the same time, the environmental movement has been pushing to preserve them and keep human development out.
Politically, the Democrats have always supported maintaining federal control, while the Republicans have long spoken for transferring control of public lands to local governments. The positions are hardening; the Republicans are expected to bring it up in their 2016 platform. They will be pushing for transferring federal lands to state control.
On the other hand, the Democrats’ 2016 platform calls for continuing the federal control of public lands. Their platform seems to conforms with the environmental movement. It says federal control will protect natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands, and protect species and wildlife.
So a confrontation is brewing. The environmentalists have pretty much had their way the last 40 years. They’ve stopped dams from being built, kicked the cattle out of the forests, and prevented new mining.
I hope we can find a balance between the two positions. Some lands need protection and preservation. Some resources need to be managed on the regional level; look how water from snowstorms in Colorado are now used to grow people in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and crops in the Imperial valley. Changing those uses now so the water could stay in Colorado just isn’t possible. However, when the King owns the forest and uses a heavy hand to control his peasants… well, we know the outcome of that story.
Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.