Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
States Still Trying to Stick It to the Feds…
The land-grab battle between Western states and the Federal government continues. Right now there are five states trying to gain control of the Federal lands within their borders: Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Idaho. All have passed proposals of some sort or another, all of which are bad news bears. Now these states might even band together to present a unified front. If any land were transferred to the states, it is clear what would happen, according to the leading multi-state rabble-rouser: land would either be sold or the rate of destructive energy development would increase. Even assuming no land changes hands, there are still plenty of dangers in the meantime. Most of these states are currently spending or actively setting aside taxpayer dollars to study or eventually defend these harebrained ideas. Maybe worse, these proposals are so out there that they can make other, still crazy ideas seem halfway sane. Oh, let’s say the states don’t want actual ownership, just control of the land management? Still crazy. In that case, in Idaho for example, the land would be managed by the Department of Lands and therefore explicitly NOT public lands. The reasons go on, but the fact is: these efforts are aimed at stealing public land that belongs to all of us.
…And Utah is Trying Especially Hard
As if all this about state ownership of federal lands weren’t enough, Utah is leading the charge on some new fronts. Unsatisfied with just unconstitutionally demanding federal lands, officials there are badgering federal land managers and picking fights over ownership of non-existent roads. State lawmakers are challenging the ability of BLM and Forest Service employees to enforce speeding and gun laws. Meanwhile, some counties are trying to assert themselves over the Feds by suing for ownership of “roads,” also known as indecipherable dirt tracks, despite what the county residents actually want. Whether or not any of these multiple attacks to federal ownership and authority succeed, they show a coordinated, determined effort to degrade our public land legacy – bad news for the outdoors.
Talk of National Monument For Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds
Few remaining places are so deserving of protection as the Boulder and White Cloud mountains between Stanley and Sun Valley, Idaho. Now, there is talk of a national monument designation that could give them the protection they deserve, while keeping the access we want. Part of the region has enjoyed some protection for the last forty years as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. But other parts still aren’t protected enough, despite Congressman Simpson’s decade-long push for Wilderness for the Boulder-White Clouds. There are a couple of attractive things about the national monument route. It could be highly protective, but still allow access for mountain bikes on elite trails. It could mean more funding for tail maintenance and more support for the local economy. And, a biggie, it could be created by the President alone, without having to break through the stonewall of Congress. Though still in the early stages, a window for compromise is now open. But it won’t stay that way for long. There isn’t much time to reach an agreement and designate a monument before President Obama leaves office, and this isn’t the only potential monument vying for his attention.