Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wasteful U.S. public-land policy must change

Like much else in government, U.S. public-land policy is a vestige of the past, established around 1910 when America's population was just 92.2million, Nevada had only 81,000 residents and Arizona, with 200,000 people, was still a territory. Today, our needs are both much different and much greater. The United States can no longer afford to keep tens of millions of acres of "public" land locked up and out of service. Some of these lands have great commercial value; others are environmental treasures. We need policies capable of distinguishing between the two. Few Easterners realize the immense magnitude of the public lands. The federal government's holdings include about 58 million acres in Nevada, or 83 percent of the state's total land mass; 45million acres in California (45 percent of the state); 34million acres in Utah (65 percent); 33million acres in Idaho (63 percent); and more than a fourth of all the land in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. Today, Arizona is still 45 percent federal land. Most public-land decisions are made by two federal agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and 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...more

No comments: