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State Efforts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands

State Efforts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands

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The American Legislative Exchange Council is working with other conservative groups to get the federal government to turn over our public lands to states for profit.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is working with other conservative groups to get the federal government to turn over our public lands to states for profit.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Mar 11, 2013
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1Center or American Progress | State Eorts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands
State Efforts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands
Jessica Goad and Tom Kenworthy March 11, 2013
Despie he many problems ha saes and municipaliies ace oday—rom budge shor-alls o unemploymen—seven wesern saes have decided o embark on unconsiuionaland quixoic batles atemping o orce he ederal governmen o urn millions o acres o public lands over o he saes. Doing so, however, would resul in he evenual exploiaionor privae pros o hese beauiul parks, reuges, oress, and oher lands because he lead-ers driving such eors would preer o see quick economic gains rom resource exracionraher han prioriizing hese areas’ more susainable economic uses such as recreaion.Raher han being managed so ha all Americans can enjoy hem, urning our publiclands over o saes would resul in heir managemen on he whims o governors andsae legislaures, who in he Wes are oen quie conservaive and end o ideologically avor limied regulaion and privae pros. According o one sae lands commissioner,hese bills would be “caasrophic” o he public lands ha Americans know and love.
1
Clashes beween saes and he ederal governmen over heir respecive auhoriies havelong been a regular eaure o our poliics, especially when i comes o issues regardingconrol over ederal public lands in he Wes. More han 700 million acres o ederal publiclands, including naional parks, naional oress, and naional monumens, belong o all Americans, and are remendous economic generaors—he Deparmen o he Ineriorsimulaed $385 billion in economic developmen and more han 2 million jobs in 2011alone.
2
A imes, conics over ownership o he ederally managed parks, oress, reuges,and oher properies have grown ino a regional cause in he Wes, as hey did during he“Sagebrush Rebellion,” a poliical movemen demanding he urnover o ederal lands ohe saes ha arose in he 1970s bu evenually zzled ou in he lae 1980s. We are now seeing ye anoher ieraion o ha hardy bu misguided wesern impulse.Tese sae legislaive eors are nohing more han corporae-backed messagingools ha can be raced o conservaive ron groups such as he American LegislaiveExchange Council, or ALEC, and Americans or Prosperiy, as we discuss urher below.Te proposals run direcly conrary o abundan evidence ha Americans and wesern-ers suppor ederal managemen o heir public lands and value he economic beneshose lands provide, especially when hey are proeced rom mining and drilling and areused insead or recreaion and oher more susainable purposes.
 
2Center or American Progress | State Eorts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands
In he pas year, legislaures in seven wesern saes—Uah, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho—have passed, inroduced, or explored legisla-ion demanding ha he ederal governmen urn over millions o acres o ederal publiclands o he saes. I successul, hese bills could be disasrous: Raher han being man-aged or he bene and use o he American public, hese lands will insead be managedin whaever way each sae wans o use hem—which generally means maximizingprivae pros hrough mining, drilling, and oher resource exracion.Tese lawmakers are waging a losing batle ha amouns o litle more han poliicalgrandsanding o rally heir exreme conservaive base and eed an anigovernmennarraive. Such bills conradic he majoriy o public opinion in hese saes, as well aseconomic realiies and consiuional preceden daing back o he mid-19h cenury. ALEC and Americans or Prosperiy have been anning he re under hese eors o“reclaim” ederal public lands. ALEC is a conservaive corporae ron group unded by ossil-uel ineress such as he Koch brohers and ExxonMobil ha develops model leg-islaion or sae legislaors o inroduce in heir legislaures,
3
and i has endorsed many o he bills urning public lands over o he saes. As he Associaed Press repored,“Lawmakers in Uah and Arizona have said he legislaion is endorsed by he AmericanLegislaive Exchange Council, a group ha advocaes conservaive ideals, and hey expec i o evenually be inroduced in oher Wesern saes.”
4
Ta should come as litle surprise, considering ha one o ALEC’s “model bills”—hose ha i dras and develops o shop o various sae legislaors—is he “SagebrushRebellion Ac,” which was “designed o esablish a mechanism or he ranser o owner-ship o” non-sae lands “rom he ederal governmen o he saes.
5
Furher evidence ha ALEC is he puppe maser behind hese perormances: UahSae Rep. Ken Ivory (R), who is leading he charge or saes o “ake back” publiclands hrough his American Lands Council,” has been presening he idea o urningederal land over o he saes a ALEC conerences such as he one in Sal Lake Ciy lassummer.
6
Addiionally, Rep. Ivory has been promoing his idea o various sae legisla-ures—he spoke, or example, wih Wyoming’s Join Minerals, Business and EconomicDevelopmen Inerim Commitee in Ocober 2012.
7
 Proponens o hese bills claim ha he saes do no receive ax revenue rom ederallands and argue ha he proceeds rom urning he land over o he saes o hen beurher developed can help und essenial sae services such as educaion.
8
Tey alsoargue ha he ederal governmen promised o urn public lands over o he saes a heesablishmen o heir saehoods more han 100 years ago.Tis issue brie provides an overview o each sae’s atemp o orce he urnover o public lands, and hen describes why his is no only bad policy ha is no in accordance
 
3Center or American Progress | State Eorts to ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands
 wih wha weserners acually believe, bu is also unconsiuional based on numerousSupreme Cour decisions.
State efforts to ‘reclaim’ public lands
In his secion, we provide an overview o each o he bills in seven wesern saes anddeail where hey are in he legislaive process.
Utah
Te Oudoor Indusry Associaion, he rade organizaion or oudoor recreaion com-panies, noes ha he oudoor economy—in par based on proeced public lands—simulaes $12 billion in consumer spending and more han 122,000 jobs or Uah every  year.
9
Tis exraordinary economic resource will be hreaened i he sae succeeds in isatemp o ake over public lands and insead use hem or resource exracion.Despie his, Uah has been leading he charge when i comes o sae atemps oreclaim public lands. Rep. Ivory sponsored he ranser o Public Lands Ac and RelaedSudy,
10
a bill ha passed boh he sae House and Senae and was signed ino law by Gov. Gary Herber (R) in March 2012.
11
Te bill esablished a deadline o December31, 2014, or he ederal governmen o urn over Uahs nearly 20 million acres o publiclands o he sae, or i will sue.
12
Uah’s Ofce o Legislaive Research and General Counsel noed ha he case law  wih regard o public lands going back o he 1870s gives he bill “a high probabiliy o  being declared unconsiuional.
13
And he
Sal Lake ribune
has called Uah’s eor“iling a windmills.”
14
 Despie his, he Uah sae legislaure has already appropriaed nearly $3 million ocover expeced sae legal expenses and has se up he Uah Land Commission o over-see he process o reurning he lands o he sae.
15
 While he bill exemps Naive American lands, naional parks, and miliary insallaions,i sill could have a major impac on some o Uah’s mos special places. One Uah publi-caion, or example, noes ha “While [Ivory] doesn’ say his will happen, i is possibleha he huge coal elds now o limis because o he Grand Saircase Escalane NaionalMonumen in souhern Uah could be developed by he new sae land commission.”
16

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