Recently, legislators in several states have passed bills to sell or lease public land for a variety of uses, such as constructing roads and as “debt-relief packages” for places like Puerto Rico.
Most often, these measures are buried within much larger bills, as thousands of acres move from public, protected property to private land with no regulations to protect our natural resources and the natural habitat of wildlife.
From the New York Times:
Unfortunately, these efforts, particularly those in the West, are not likely to end. Congressional opponents of federal lands have set up a “Federal Land Action Group” to “develop a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control.” The group promotes the flawed idea that local communities would fare better if national lands were given to the states to manage. That idea has proponents in 19 state legislatures.
We hear over and over that the government can’t manage the land it already owns. Those words ring especially hollow when they come from the same members of Congress who deliberately underfund our parks and public lands and undermine community-driven, science-based efforts to manage them.
Anti-conservation lawmakers devise such distractions to justify their actions because they know that the American people prize these lands. That’s why opponents of federal ownership often bury these measures in large bills that Congress must pass.
The reality is that people as well as birds and other wildlife flock to our national refuges, parks and forests. Many of these protected areas are near populous urban centers and offer children a first dose of wild America.
If Congress were to succeed in giving away one of these treasures, what would be next on the auction block? Theodore Roosevelt’s beloved Pelican Island in Florida, where exotic birds were being slaughtered for their plumage until he stepped in? Or the Lewis and Clark refuge in Oregon, which remains much as it was when the explorers first passed through in November 1805?
These refuges play a special role by protecting vital habitat for our country’s extraordinary wildlife. They are part of our natural heritage and national identity. They are public lands owned by all of us, just like our national park system, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next week. They should be handed to future generations healthy and intact.
Read the full article on NewYorkTimes.com.