By RT H. NELSON
Late last month the Senate passed a non-binding budget resolution that encourages the selling or transfer of federal lands to state and local governments. With a Republican Congress, the longstanding question over federal management of public lands is resurfacing once again with renewed urgency.
The federal government owns large parts of the forests, deserts and other rural areas of the American West – in total around half of all the land in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast states. Roughly 30% of federal lands are made up of wilderness and national parks, while the rest are used for timber harvesting, grazing, energy leasing and recreation.
This pervasive federal presence is a product of policies championed at the turn of the 20th century.
Throughout the nineteenth century, however, the government aggressively disposed of its land holdings to private landowners and state governments, seeking to advance economic development and the pursuit of “manifest destiny.” It was in the period from 1890 to 1920 that American Progressives successfully argued that these lands would be more expertly managed in federal hands.
After more than 100 years of experience, we now know otherwise, that these lands would be better under state or private management. It’s a lesson I learned well during almost two decades at the Department of the Interior working as a policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary.
Instead of much greater efficiency, the research conducted by myself and others has shown that federal management turned out to be wasteful — typical of many government-owned enterprises around the world over the course of the 20th century — as well as detrimental to the land itself.
Healthy forests, just like healthy human populations, are sustained by a diversity of ages and types. In many parts of the United States, forests are becoming largely homogeneous, and in places like the Appalachian Mountains, young forest and mature, old growth forests are in short supply.
A lack of diverse forests has negative impacts on wildlife and the economy, as different age classes support higher biodiversity and provide a more sustainable source of income for forest landowners. Through the use of sustainable forestry practices, forest landowners are able to compensate for lack of natural disturbance.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recommends a number of sustainable forestry practices to forest landowners. These practices provide landowners with a number of choices, depending on the land and a landowner’s goals.
By Brandi Buchman
Taking the United States to court, an Arizona-based Native American tribe blames federal mismanagement for putting their once thriving timber industry against the ropes.
Describing itself as the country’s 11th largest Indian reservation, the White Mountain Apache note that their vast natural resources “are of enormous economic importance to the tribe.”
“If managed correctly, the reservation’s natural resources would sustain the tribe and its members into the foreseeable future,” their complaint states, filed on March 15 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Though the United States has held these resources in trust for the tribe since at least 1871, the White Mountain Apache say mismanagement has resulted in substantial losses — the full extent of which is not yet known.
Source: Apache Tribe Blames US for Forest Ailments – Courthouse News, 2017-03-21
By Daniel Drucktor
The American Loggers Council (ALC) today outlined key priorities for the 115th United States Congress and the Trump Administration’s first two years. As the national organization representing America’s professional timber harvesters, ALC believes the new Congress and President should take advantage of an historic opportunity to protect and create family-wage jobs.
“Voters sent a clear message that it’s time to put Americans back to work, and strengthening the forest products industry is one way to accomplish that goal in communities across the country,” said Daniel Dructor, ALC Executive Vice President. “Professional timber harvesters provide the raw materials that supports manufacturing jobs in many sectors, from lumber to renewable energy. Many logging companies are small, family-owned businesses. To keep American loggers working in the woods, President Trump and Congress should pursue reforms in federal regulations and land management, as well as labor, transportation and energy policies.”
BY ALEX SHASHKEVICH
To this day the U.S. government owns almost half of the land in the American West.
That level of control has been debated ever since the government began acquiring the areas in the 19th century, with some Westerners resenting the vastness of the federal authority, which amounts to 47 percent of land in 11 states. Some states, like Nevada, where the government owns 84.5 percent of the land, see more control than others.
But few know about the existence and history of revenue-sharing programs, with some dating to 1906, through which the federal government has been compensating states and counties for lost tax revenue on the lands it controls.
Now, thanks to historian Joseph “Jay” Taylor’s research and a team at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the history and geography of those programs are presented in Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands, an interactive website that maps federal payments made to counties and states in the American West over the past 100 years.
If Wyoming officials want more say in how their federal lands are managed, they ought to craft influential state- or local-level plans rather than trying to altogether wrest away control.
That’s the upshot of a $75,000 study on how realistic it would be for Wyoming to manage the bulk of its federally owned public lands. The document was released to the public Tuesday.
“In essence, our recommendation is to work to phase more management to the state gradually,” the study says, “with the ultimate goal of providing the state and local communities with more influence over federal land management activities while avoiding inheriting the crippling bureaucracy, costs, and litigation…”
Oregon’s Democratic U.S. senators have proposed a nearly doubling of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as a way to better protect the unique biodiversity and habitats in the face of climate change.Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have proposed expanding the 16-year-old monument by more than 66,500 acres inside a new, more than 100,000-acre footprint that stretches northwest past Dead Indian Memorial Road, west to Emigrant Lake, east into Klamath County and south into California near Iron Gate Reservoir.
The 90,328 acres proposed for expansion within Oregon includes 56,245 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands, including Hyatt Lake and lands surrounding Howard Prairie Lake, as well as chunks of the upper watersheds of Jenny Creek tributaries whose lower reaches are now part of the monument.
The current monument covers about 66,000 acres within an 85,000-acre boundary inside Jackson County east of Ashland.
Source: Expansion gains momentum