The story about the Wilkes’ purchase has taken on a life of its own. Opponents to the transfer or sale of public lands are using the closures as Exhibit A of what can happen if lands that are traditionally open to the public go into private hands. But it’s the way the story affects snowmobilers, four-wheelers, loggers and hunters such as Wolfinger that has given this story legs, as well as the Wilkses’ unwillingness to talk to anyone about their actions or their plans.
As I have mentioned before, for instance here, there is a solution to this:
These lands can be transferred to the states with a guarantee the public will always have access for hunting and other forms of recreation.And here:
How's that? Its called a reverter clause. You find these in federal land transfers all the time. For instance see the disposal of federal lands under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. All of these contain a reverter clause which states if the lands no longer are serving the purposes for which it was transferred the lands then revert back to the federal government.
You would simply need language in the transfer legislation requiring they remain open for hunting and recreation and that would be binding on the state or any subsequent owner. Violations would result in the lands reverting to the feds.
So if public access is the only objection to the transfer of these lands, that is easily handled...
The only transfer issue brought up in this column is these lands might wind up in private hands. Personally, I would like to see a clean transfer to the states, where the local needs and concerns can influence the highest and best use of the resource. However, if there is a legitimate concern for maintaining public access to certain parcels or areas, you simply place a reverter clause in the transfer instrument. If the state or private owner doesn't, in this case, maintain public access, the land reverts back to the feds. Reverter clauses already exist in law, such as the Recreation & Public Purposes Act, so that language could be easily adapted for public access. In other words, the one issue they raise can be easily resolved.Some just don't believe me, or refuse to discuss a reverter clause. For those here is the language from the Recreation & Public Purposes Act.
The Airplane and Airport Act grants similar legislative disposal authority to the FAA and a reverter clause under that Act is defined by the GSA as:
So if their are special parcels where public access should be allowed, that is easily accomplished with a reverter clause.
One other observation. Look again at the language in the Recreation & Public Purposes Act and notice all the steps the non-federal entity must go through, one of which is having a local plan adopted before the transfer. And compare that to the Antiquities Act, where the President can transfer millions of acres from multiple-use to restricted-use, with no hearings or notice, and the feds adopt a plan after the transfer.