Rep. Rob Bishop says the feds in Washington and officials in Western states are talking past each other in the debate over public lands: “We’re talking the same language. We don’t mean the same thing.”
More than 90 percent of the 640 million acres of land owned by the federal government is in Mr. Bishop’s half of the country, making for a differing attitude toward Washington as the local landlord.
“When you talk about public lands, my good friends in the East, the only contact they have is the national park nearby,” said Mr. Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee overseeing public lands. “You say public lands to them and they think of a pretty tree by a pretty lake. Those of us who live in the West, we deal with the [Bureau of Land Management]. When we say public lands, we think of sagebrush.”
The session was held against the backdrop of the recent tense standoff between the BLM and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing rights and federal authority. With so much of the West owned by the federal government, lawmakers and leaders alike said a discussion is overdue on how the lands can be better used.
“You don’t have to have everything managed by Washington in order to have it done well,” said Mr. Bishop. “States and tribes are showing that they can do just as good a job, if not a better job.”