Fight for public lands continue

EZEKIEL MASCUILLI/THE ARKA TECH

Yosemite. Yellowstone. Bear’s Ears. Acadia. National Parks. There’s nothing more American.

Every so often, public lands become a matter of national debate because various representatives and/or senators want to transfer public lands from the federal government back to state control. While, this idea may sound good in theory, we could possibly lose some of these national parks, and people who depend on these public lands could lose their livelihoods. At the Arka Tech, we want to encourage you to support our public lands and to support keeping these lands open to the public.

“The concept of a formal designation and conservation of public lands dates back to our first National Parks. While designating the parks as public, the conservation was another matter. Theodore Roosevelt and his conservation group, Boone and Crockett Club took matters into their own hands, by creating laws and regulations that protected these national treasures. Roosevelt and the Boone and Crockett Club continued on influencing the creation of scores of public lands including the National Refuge System, USFS and the United States National Forest system,” according to the Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data collected by the Congressional Research Service.

However, federal ownership of lands goes back as far as the founding of the United States. The original 13 colonies turned over lands west of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Mississippi River to the federal government, and while much of this land was used to encourage people to go west, young man, some of it was kept for federal use.

Though the federal government was lukewarm to public lands in the beginning and began disposing them back to state control, a shift began to happen in 1934 when Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act and created the U.S. Grazing Service to manage livestock grazing on public lands. While this seemed to be a temporary thing until all the public land was given back to the state, it came to be that the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Service merged to form the Bureau of Land Management, indicating a more permanent state for federally owned lands.

Eventually, in 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which stated that the government should keep control of federal lands unless disposal of the land will “serve the national interest.”

At the time, many Westerners thought that these public lands would be turned back over for state use, and when they discovered this wouldn’t happen, the Sagebrush Rebellion happened. The Sagebrush Rebellion, according to Hans Poschman, a former policy analyst for The Council of State Governments West, was “a series of skirmishes, including legal challenges and outright violence intended to force the federal government to divest itself of public lands.”

The Rebellion cumulated in 1995 when a bomb was set off in a U.S. Forest Service office. However, in March 2014, the Rebellion was reborn.

Federal officials intended to take the livestock of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher, due to unpaid grazing fees. Bundy, and a group of armed supporters, seized control of a national wildlife refuge. Bundy’s argument? The government had too much control of Western lands.

Donald Trump has spoken out against the idea of transferring federally held lands to state control. In an interview with “Field & Stream” magazine, Trump said, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great.”

This statement is in direct contrast to a statement that was released by the Republican Party claiming that federal control of so many lands was “absurd.”

And Trump hasn’t necessarily been known to keep his word.

Federally held lands provide jobs for thousands of people: miners, loggers, land management officials, and also provide ranchers with grazing land. These lands also help bring in revenue to the federal government through fees that miners, loggers, ranchers, etc. have to pay in order to use the land. Also, as of March 1, 2016, it houses 67,000 mustangs (wild horses) and burros on public lands and 45,000 in government holding pens, according to National Geographic.

If public lands were to become completely state controlled, we could lose thousands of acres of national parks, ranchers could lose valuable grazing land, and thus their livelihood, and the fees for land use could be raised so high that independent contractors could no longer afford it. This has the potential to put thousands of people out of jobs.

Our concern at the Arka Tech is keeping public lands open to the public. We want this to happen because we don’t want anyone to lose access to national parks, nor do we want thousands of people to be without jobs.

While most federal lands are in western states like California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico, we do have public lands in Arkansas. Most notable to Tech is Bona Dea and Mount Nebo State Park.

We beg you to consider this question: if we begin losing public lands in the west, how long will it be before the federal government disposes of all public lands?

At the Arka Tech, we encourage you to support our public lands. You can do this simply by visiting and enjoying the public lands; you can also give donations on publiclands.org, and, by voting in representatives and senators who support keeping federal lands public.