Shades of the Sagebrush Rebellion -- they're back. In the 1970s there was a movement, centered in Nevada, that strove to transfer federal lands to the states and private ownership. Fortunately that states rights movement died out.
Today, they’re back, with the selling point for selling off federal lands being to pay off the national debt, which is over $17.5 trillion and climbing every day.
While such a plan may very well work to reduce or eliminate the national debt, what would we be left with? "Not much" is the answer.
When the western states became states they were given land grants from the federal government. Looking at 8 western states the land grants totaled 44.8 million acres. Today those states hold 27.1 million acres. In other words the states have sold off 40 percent of their public lands. If the states acquired more land from the federal government why would anyone think that 40 percent of it would not be sold off too? And do we want federal lands being sold outright to the highest bidder?
Public lands are what make living in the West living in the West.
Can you imagine not being able to go out and hike, bike, hunt and fish where you always have? Neither can I.
Nevada sold off their 2.7 million-acre land grant, and if it were not for federal lands you would be trespassing everywhere you tried to go in Nevada.
Even if selling off federal lands would eliminate the debt, what makes anyone think that spending by the federal government – with a suddenly clean balance sheet - would not accelerate to incredible levels and in another decade we would be back at $17 trillion in debt with no public land to save every westerner's sanity?
Sure, we would still have the Grand Canyon and Wupatki and Yellowstone and other national parks. But how crowded would they be and who in Flagstaff wants to travel 90 miles to the Canyon to take a hike because the Coconino National Forest has been sold?
A bit absurd, perhaps, but history shows the states find selling public lands an easy fix to poor fiscal management and apparently so do Washington politicians. This is something you need to pay attention to. I would suggest you tell Washington to reduce their spending and maintain our federal public land inventory as PUBLIC LANDS.
Millions of hikers, bikers, birders, hunters, river runners, fishermen, climbers, photographers, cross country skiers, campers, and sightseers depend on it.
Eastern politicians who do not understand the western lifestyle may find it easy to suggest this quick fix for the national debt. Pay attention to talk of transferring federal lands and tell them no.