Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Conservationists look to Donald Trump Jr. as their champion in new White House

And just in time to confirm my thoughts on Donald Trump, Jr. comes this article in today's Washington Post...

 Soon after House conservatives kicked off a new effort last week to reduce the amount of wilderness and other lands protected by the federal government, a leading conservationist quickly dashed off an email to an ally with especially close ties to the incoming Republican administration. The note went to Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of President-elect Donald Trump and a member of several hunting and fishing groups, who promised fellow hunters during the campaign that he would press his father to protect federal lands that are popular for outdoors activities. Donald Trump Jr. “has been great on this issue,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, who wrote the email. “He’s a legitimate outdoorsman. I think it’s part of who he is and how he identifies himself.” The urgent appeal to Trump Jr. reveals how hunting and conservation groups plan to rely on the 39-year-old to serve as their champion in his father’s administration on an issue that puts him in direct opposition to many conservatives who are counting on a GOP president to scale back federal control over millions of acres where drilling, grazing and other private uses are restricted. he outcome of the unfolding lobbying campaign will shed light on what kind of influence Trump Jr. could wield behind the scenes after his father takes office, as well as his willingness to oppose Republican lawmakers taking aim at what they describe as federal mismanagement of public lands. It also will signal how much Trump Jr., who along with his brother Eric is expected to take over management of the family’s real estate empire, will push personal policy interests that his father can influence. Even as Trump Jr. has been preparing to take on new business responsibilities, he has already had a significant imprint on the incoming administration. A dedicated hunter and angler who retreats with his wife and their five children to their Catskills cabin nearly every weekend, he helped handpick Ryan Zinke (R), a fellow hunter, public lands advocate and Montana’s lone House member, as nominee for interior secretary...more

That ol' bugaboo about these lands being privatized is mentioned prominently in the article. It's really a pseudo-issue. Perhaps its time to share again what I wrote in October of last year:

 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.

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...
And here:
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 Secretary of the Interior upon application filed by a duly qualified applicant under section 869–1 of this title may, in the manner prescribed by sections 869 to 869–4 of this title, dispose of any public lands to a State, Territory, county, municipality, or other State, Territorial, or Federal instrumentality or political subdivision for any public purposes, or to a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit association for any recreational or any public purpose consistent with its articles of incorporation or other creating authority. Before the land may be disposed of under sections 869 to 869–4 of this title it must be shown to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the land is to be used for an established or definitely proposed project, that the land involved is not of national significance nor more than is reasonably necessary for the proposed use, and that for proposals of over 640 acres comprehensive land use plans and zoning regulations applicable to the area in which the public lands to be disposed of are located have been adopted by the appropriate State or local authority. 

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:

Right of Reverter. The instrument of conveyance from the federal government must
specify the right to have property interest revert to a federal agency and title revest in the United States. This right extends only to the title, right of possession, or other rights vested in the United States at the time the federal government transferred the property described in the instrument to the grantee. The right may be exercised only at the option of the United States – with or without the cooperation of a grantee – against all or part of the property in question.

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.

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