As Americans, we are the landowners for millions of acres of public land across the West that is managed by federal agencies. National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands all are owned by the people and are supposed to be managed in trust for our benefit.
But big corporations and their friends in Congress would like to seize federal public lands and sell them off to the highest bidder, or turn them over to state and local governments. That would be a disaster for the public interest.
It’s time to stand and fight for our western public lands!
Federal public lands are required to be managed for a variety of public benefits, and have laws and regulations that provide a measure of protection for watersheds, wildlife, and the health of the land. National Parks are supposed to be managed to protect and preserve our natural heritage, for the use and enjoyment of the people. National Wildlife Refuges are supposed to be managed to protect the wildlife and crucial habitats for which they were established. National Forests and BLM lands must be managed for multiple use, which includes wildlife, watersheds, wilderness, and public recreation, which all are environmental values.
But many of the federal laws that protect the environment on federal lands do not apply on state lands and private lands. Most states, for example, don’t have an equivalent law to the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to evaluate environmental consequences, consider alternatives including environmentally preferable ones, and respond to public input. When industrial projects happen on private or state lands, they can be approved without much forethought or consideration for the health of the lands, waters, and wildlife.
The outright sale or transfer of public lands out of federal ownership would allow the new property owners to lock out the public from traditional access for camping, fishing, or simply the enjoyment of nature. Transferring federal lands to the states would radically increase extractive industrial land uses at the expense of the environment, since in most cases state governments are heavily focused on for-profit commercial uses at the expense of land health and wildlife.
The enemies of your public lands also have a Plan B – if they can’t get rid of federal public lands outright, they hope to transfer management authority over to the states, whom they trust to open up the floodgates for heavy commercial and industrial uses ranging from livestock grazing to logging to oil and gas drilling.
Western Watersheds Project is dedicated to keeping public lands in public hands, by fighting against efforts to privatize federal lands or transfer their ownership or management to state governments. You can do your part to help by contacting your current Members of Congress and telling them to keep their hands off your federal lands.