The good news is that there is growing recognition that something needs to change. Earlier this summer I formed the Federal Lands Action Group to explore creative ways Congress can give states and local governments more control over public lands. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and six additional Congressmen from both western and eastern states joined me. In our first hearing in July, we heard compelling testimony describing how states have managed their public lands far more effectively than the federal government has managed its. Dr. Robert Nelson of the University of Maryland pointed to several eastern states with extensive state forest systems that are managed very efficiently, belying the myth that states don’t have the expertise or ability to manage large swaths of public land. The truth is that not only canstates manage public lands, they can do it for less money and with better results.
So the president decides what we should call mountains in Alaska. The president decides the best way to manage a forest. The president decides the best way to extract precious minerals, all without any local or state involvement. It is offensive to those of us who live in the West. And it makes no sense. As we continue our work on the Federal Lands Action Group, I’m confident we’ll develop innovative ideas that will empower local communities to have a say in the decisions impacting the public lands upon which they depend. That empowerment of local officials is the only way to accomplish what the federal government has proven totally incapable of doing—managing public lands in a way that’s beneficial both to the lands and to all those who use them.