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Marshaling a Grab for Public Land in the Western United States

Faced with the prospect of states seizing control of federal lands to potentially sell to private owners, a resident of New Mexico argues against "the land grab out west."
October 28, 2014, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"With a script similar to one used last spring by the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a small contingent of opportunistic politicians is vowing to dispose of America’s national forests, conservation lands and open space," writes Martin Heinrich.

Utah was the first state to embark on this course. In 2012, the state’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, signed a law demanding (though unsuccessfully so far) that the federal government transfer to the state more than 20 million acres owned by United States taxpayers. This included national forests and grasslands and such jewels as Lake Powell and the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

In turn, the legislatures in Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming have created task forces to study the idea, though similar efforts in Colorado and my home state of New Mexico have thus far failed.

According to Heinrich, the states argue that they are better fit to manage the lands than federal agencies like the United States Forest Service of the Bureau of Land Management. Heinrich identifies the American Lands Council as a key lobbyists behind the recent legislative efforts, noting that "the Republican National Committee has bought the snake oil the American Lands Council is selling. Last January, the committee endorsed [pdf] the transfer of public lands to the states. In addition, the United States House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, endorsed the outright sale of our public lands."

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, October 26, 2014 in The New York Times
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