A big moment in my conversion to conservatism was my first cross country trip back in 1988. Looking out the window of my pickup truck, I thought to myself there’s a helluva a lot of land out here, and there’s no way the bureaucrats in Washington can possibly know what’s best for the folks living out here.
Like much else in government, U.S. public land policy is a vestige of the past, established in 1910 when America’s population was just 92.2 million and a Western state such as Nevada had only 81,000 residents.
…Few Easterners realize the immense magnitude of the public lands. The federal government’s holdings include about 58 million acres in Nevada, or 83% of the state’s total land mass; 45 million acres in California (45% of the state); 34 million acres in Utah (65%); 33 million acres in Idaho (63%); and more than a fourth of all the land in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.
Most public land decisions are made by two federal agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and involve matters such as the number of cows that will be allowed to graze, the areas available to off-road recreational vehicles, the prevention and fighting of forest fires, the building of local roads, the amount of timber harvesting, the leasing of land for oil and gas drilling, mineral rights and other such details. Outside the rural West, most such decisions are made by private landowners or by state and local governments. In the West, Washington acts as if it knows best.
Like other grand designs of the “progressive” era, public land policy has failed the test of time. Public lands have not been managed efficiently to maximize national benefits but instead in response to political pressures.
Lawmakers made land policy more than 100 years ago and now — at in one expert’s opinion —- that policy has become outdated. So the question begs why should we make policy regarding our coastline based on projections 80 years out?
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