Some Western politicians want to give away our public lands. Photo by Stephen TorbitMy three year old is big into bears. Grizzly bears, black bears, Little Ted (his blue stuffed bear) and the Berenstain Bears all rate a bigger share of his undivided attention than I do. "The Berenstain Bears Get The Gimmies” has been a particular favorite of late, and it occurred to me while reading it for the 117th time that these bears may have a thing or two to teach some of our lawmakers.
You see, politicians in Washington, and in statehouses around the West, have once again decided that they just must claim the very resources that ensure our hunting and fishing heritage. They want our public lands, and they’re not above throwing a tantrum to get them.
The National Wildlife Federation has just released Valuing Our Western Public Lands (http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/ NWF_PublicLands.pdf ), a report outlining the latest round of would-be land grabs that threaten our open spaces, and let me tell you, it doesn’t read like any kid’s book. Currently wending their ways through Washington, the American Lands Act (H.R. 1017) would force the BLM and Forest Service to sell off 8 percent of their lands per year, to the highest bidder, while the Disposal of Federal Lands Act would force the BLM to selloff all “excess lands” in the West at auction.
Too much space for hunting, fishing?
When’s the last time you felt like you had “excess land” to hunt and fish on? Meanwhile back home in Wyoming the Transfer of Federal Lands Study, which passed the state legislature in early 2013, would require the state attorney general to study “possible legal recourses available to compel the federal government to relinquish ownership and management of specified federal lands in Wyoming.” And that’s just to name a few from the report’s long list of threatening state and federal bills.
The new NWF report http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/NWF_ PublicLands.pdf also lays out in black and white the crucial role these lands play in our state and local economies. Meanwhile it pulls from piles of polling data to demonstrate just how out of step with voters that pro-sell-off politicians are on this issue. Do you know where the folks you’ve elected to represent you stand on the above proposals? I urge you to find out. You may be surprised.
Bad case of the gimmies
So, if these public lands are the backbone of our hunting and fishing opportunity, create and maintain high quality jobs, and are prized by the voting public, how did policy makers come down with such a bad case of the gimmies? Well, Momma and Papa Bear would suggest that we’ve been overly indulgent. Faced with a similar malady the Bear family struck a deal: Brother and Sister Bear were only allowed treats sparingly, and if they were dissatisfied, not even those. I think that’s a grand idea. In fact I’d like to propose similar terms for our current situation: Keep your hands off our lands, and you can keep your job.
It’s simple enough for my three year old, so it just might work.
This blog was first published in "Pronghorn," the Wyoming Wildlife Federation Newsletter.
About the Author
Matthew Copeland works closely with NWF’s affiliate, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, sportsmen and women, agency personnel and elected officials throughout Wyoming to ensure that wildlife, and wildlife-related recreation are fully considered in decisions affecting our public lands. Based in Lander Wyoming with his wife, Karly, their young son, Everett, and assorted household critters.