Letter: Don’t shift public lands to states
Recently, the Colorado Senate committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy approved SB232, a bill to create a committee to study the transfer of federal public lands in Colorado to the state. Fortunately, the bill died in a floor vote. Every few decades, this movement rises, zombie-like, from its shallow grave. Today, two well-funded industry front groups, the American Lands Council and the American Legislative Exchange Council, both darlings of the Kochs, spearhead that movement.
This misguided and shortsighted idea defies constitutional law, financial sense and public opinion. Because of length constraints, I’ll address the latter and handle the former at a later date.
In Colorado, 74 percent of respondents oppose any proposal to vacate federal public lands. [Source: Colorado College State of the Rockies Project]. At the aforementioned Senate committee hearing, 15 of the 17 speakers opposed the bill. One supporter was Garfield County’s own John Martin. In the U.S. Senate, Republican Cory Gardner was the only Republican to vote against a resolution to transfer remaining federal lands to the states. Sen. Gardner is no dummy; ranchers in Colorado would see grazing fees explode from the current federal rate of $1.69 per animal unit per month up to $10.85 AUM, the current state rate. That’s an increase of 642 percent.
Groups as diverse as the Sierra Club on one end of the political spectrum to ConservAmerica on the other oppose this idea. Hunting and fishing groups, including Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, all oppose the transfer of federal public lands to the states. Seventy percent of hunters in Colorado hunt on public land. Hunters are, as a rule, in the conservative voting bloc. It is surprising that the Republican-controlled Senate would even consider any legislation to transfer public lands.
Over the years, these pages have seen OHV groups argue with non-motorized travelers over access to public lands. It is time we all dropped our individual grievances and defend that resource about which we argue. Let your local elected officials know that public land is too valuable to lose.
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