Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Federal Land Management

By Don Mallicoat

 Allow me to get up on my soapbox for a rant. I try not to do it often but this issue has been simmering in the back of my mind for a while. The issue came to light several months ago with a move in several western states to transfer federally managed lands to state control. The Republican National election platform also has a plank calling for the same thing. It came to a head for me while reading about the latest proposal for wilderness area on the Pisgah/Nantahala National Forest.

Several conservation groups, primarily the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), are fighting the land transfer move. They are energizing their membership to speak out against the transfer by attending public meetings and writing elected representatives to oppose the move. I liken it to a doctor treating the symptoms of your illness instead of the cause. So let’s look at what may be the cause with a couple of local examples.

The American people are simply tired of a government bureaucracy that is not fulfilling its mission and responsibility as designed. On a larger scale you can see it in the current election campaign. The ongoing and long term problems at the Veteran’s Administration are also symptoms of a greater ill. It’s really about a burdensome federal system that is not responsive to the desires and needs of the people of this country.

Out west, ranchers who have historically had grazing rights on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are now being denied their livelihood because of environmental regulations or some obscure animal that is on a protected species list. Shooting ranges, a long time mission of federal land agencies, are being shut down for similar reasons. I just read an article from the Sportsmen’s Alliance ( that the Obama administration, by executive order, plans to close 77 million acres of federal land in Alaska to management by the state wildlife agency. That reads as no hunting or trapping on those acres.

Let’s bring that closer to home. Over the last three years hunters have been actively involved in the Pisgah/Nantahala strategic planning process. Overwhelmingly, and as a majority stakeholder, we told the U.S. Forest Service that we wanted more land management for wildlife habitat. By their own figures, the forest is only at 1% of young forest growth for wildlife when their goal is 10 percent. We also offered that there is sufficient designated Wilderness in the forest as well as several hundred thousand acres in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are preserved. The National Forests were designed and placed under the Department of Agriculture so they would be managed, not preserved.

So what did we get for our efforts and involvement? The current objectives for the strategic plan only maintain the current level of young forest growth over the next ten years. There is no recognition for the need to increase management activity to reach a 10% goal. One of the objective criteria for the plan deals with recreation. Hunting or shooting are not even recognized as recreational activities. Ginseng harvesting is. Several laws are on the books to mandate federal agencies recognize hunting and shooting activities in their mission and to include those in their planning.

Also, nearly thirty percent of the forests current inventory is in some special use category, including currently designated Wilderness area. Most of these uses preclude active management. Yet in the current plan the Forest Service wants to add more Wilderness designation further reducing land management activity. We already have enough preserved land in western North Carolina. What we need is more active management of the forests that are out there. Does anyone at the federal level not understand why the people want to transfer land to local control? After nearly 100 years of federal land management they have screwed it up so bad people are saying, “Turn the land over to someone who can better manage it.”

I personally support keeping land under federal management. But like a lot of other people I’m tired of mismanagement of that land by a cumbersome bureaucracy that doesn’t respond to the needs of the local community. If the transfer of land to the states with a management provision that prohibits sale of the land to private entities I may change my mind. Either manage the land according to your mission or turn it over to someone who will.

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