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February 26, 2019

Bipartisanship and Conservation Are Good, But…

The question we need to ask is simple: When is enough federal land enough?

According to The Washington Post earlier this month, “The Senate … passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes including Civil War soldiers and a civil rights icon. The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to deal making that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill.” The House is preparing to vote on the legislation.

I’m always skeptical when I read the Post celebrate the announcement of some bipartisan scheme that ultimately increases federal power and costs taxpayers more. This land grab is a terrible idea. The federal government already controls most of the western United States. This bill will further increase federal control over large areas.

In addition, the Wilderness designation locks land away from most of the public except those who by permit walk in on foot with extreme limitation and countless regulations. Rivers become locked away from any future hydro-electric development in a nation that needs power. More federal employees with more salaries and pensions will be required to “manage” these areas of expanded federal protection. This is more federal forceful protection of stuff rather than people.

I argued many times with National Park Service managers during my career with NPS, and they firmly believed their priority was to protect stuff over protecting the safety and lives of people. What I suggest is a return of most of the many millions of acres of land and hundreds of National Parks back to state control, with the federal government retaining only those exquisite jewels like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.

Having spent decades as a land manager working from the West Coast to the East Coast, I can cite countless examples of breathtakingly horrible management by federal land managers spurred on by a host of aberrant agendas that are not in the best interests of Americans. We should oppose anything that expands the power of the all-consumptive federal beast.

How much is enough? When politicians seek a lasting legacy, they look in the mirror and imagine Teddy Roosevelt staring back at them, all at our expense. How about this: Secure our borders from a host of threats before any more land within our nation’s interior is essentially confiscated for federal use.

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