Federal Lands Action Group Holds First Forum

Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Rob Bishop and Chairman of the Federal Lands Action Group, Rep. Chris Stewart hosted the first in a series of forums aimed at exploring historical precedents and best practices with regard to public land management and ownership.

The forum included witnesses from the academic, legal and natural resource sectors. Witnesses presented testimony and answered questions from members of Congress in the action group.  

Members and witnesses discussed the merits of a variety of options, including charter forests, public land trusts, state or local government contracted management, and shifting actual land ownership to states, among other ideas.




During questioning, Rep Bishop said, “It’s not because the federal managers are malevolent or incompetent, they just have too damn much land to manage. It’s too big to succeed. It’s not too large to fail, it’s too large to succeed.” Click here for video.

In his opening remarks, Rep. Chris Stewart said, “It’s curious that for so long it has been clear to us in the West that the federal government does a lousy job managing public lands, and yet this misperception persists that the feds are the best ones to continue owning and managing the federal estate. Our purpose is to first clear up that myth and then discuss some of the innovative ways we can move decision-making authority and improve management.” Click here for video.

Witnesses included:

Dr. Robert Nelson, Professor, University of Maryland — “In recent years, it has often been state governments, not the federal government, that has taken the key leadership roles in American government efforts to deal with pressing domestic policy problems and issues. With a greater state role, there would likely be differences in land management approaches from one state to another, appropriately reflecting their diverse state circumstances, as compared with the current one-size-fits-all federal system.”

Dr. Elwood Miller, Professor Emeritus, University of Nevada, explained the potential impact of litigation on the Forest Service and other land management agencies, “Land and resource management from the bench has had a debilitating effect on the morale of agency personnel and instituted a culture that favors modification of needed treatment to avoid legal challenge.”

Glade Hall, Counsel, Huthison and Steffen, talked about the broken promises made to several western states,“It is a patent absurdity to assert that such full powers of governance cover 87% of the land surface of a state of the Union and at the same time assert that such state has been admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original states in every respect whatever.”

Greg Walcher, President, Natural Resources Group —  “the federal government simply does not trust state and local governments not to destroy public resources, as if people have a self-interest in destroying their own back yards. The federal and state governments both represent the public, and they both have legal ability to preserve the environment. Both have legal protections for endangered species, clean air and water, and other environmental values. Both have strong enforcement abilities, and both care deeply about protecting such special places. Yet the federal government consistently refuses to acknowledge and value state and local cooperative efforts”