Shred in Peace Jeff Archer...

Like many of you, I’m a fierce advocate of conservation and preservation of our natural world. I volunteer a lot of my time and expertise to local conservation efforts and projects right here in my little corner of New Hampshire. It’s something small I do and I help where I can on a local level. But recent actions south of New Hampshire have been giving me pause as of late, and one such issue is public lands. If the locations which host our trails and more importantly our remaining open space are not maintained and preserved for future generations in perpetuity, we will lose access to that which we all hold so dear. I’ve been struggling to put into words, informed words at that, what is going on in Washington D.C. as of late.

I try and keep things politically neutral here at 44HQ but even I cannot be absolved nor quiet about what I hold dear and perceive as impending dangers on the lifeblood of my business. Ironically, I received an email from a good friend and client, Joe Trudeau, who is a Conservation Ecologist recently, touching on this very subject providing expert insight and opinion. So rather than me try and put all this into my own words, I’d like to share Joe’s thoughts and words directly with you. I think it’s really important that at times in our nations history, that we hold fast to our collective beliefs and work together towards a better tomorrow for all. However the present direction in Washington is definitively not working with everyones best intentions. So I urge all to read, digest, inform and act. I’ll let Joe take it from here.

“Dear Friends,

I’m writing to get you fired up, angry, and ACTIVE in something hugely important:

THE TRANSFER OF FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS TO WESTERN STATES.

If you’ve talked to me in the past couple years, you’ve certainly heard me talk about this, and maybe you wanted me to shut up. Well, I’m not going to shut up, and if you’re halfway awake you should be talking about this too. PLEASE READ ON, GIVE ME 15 MINTES OF YOUR TIME… And get on your computer, this is too much of an email for a smartphone….

So, what are the basics of this issue? The Federal Government (which is you and me) owns 640 million acres of land, which includes National Forests, Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, Historic Sites, Conservation Areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other designations. The United States has owned these lands continually since we brought western lands into the Union through various treaties and purchases. If you are on this email list, you know these lands intimately.

In short, while the Federal Government does not manage these lands perfectly, they manage them for everyone’s interest and use, and it has been a slowly improving system over the past century. Many laws, all of which are being targeted by the newly sworn in President and Congress, require that the broadest base of public interest is incorporated into managing OUR PUBLIC LANDS BIRTHRIGHT.

Right now, actions are being taken to transfer our public lands to western States, where there are no landscape-scale rules and frameworks for protecting land and managing for timber, grazing, wildlife, water protection, recreation, clean air, and many other values of these lands. The end goal of this transfer is to deregulate the environment and allow States to sell these lands to oil, gas, hardrock mining, logging, ranching, development, and other non-public, profit-oriented uses.

PLEASE READ ON AND TAKE ACTION IF:

-You enjoy camping, biking, climbing, running rivers, trail running, skiing, or other adventure sports. Most of the time you are recreating on national public land that is managed for good recreation experiences.

-You own or work at a bike shop, gear shop, ski shop, or a manufacturer of outdoor gear. Most of your customers use your products almost exclusively on federal public lands.

-You are an outdoor educator, adventure guide, ski instructor, fitness coach or athlete. Your “office” is America’s public lands.

-You hunt, fish, or just love to watch wildlife. Their habitats are protected and improved by law on public lands.

-You had a formative experience as a youth on our public lands, and wish for the future kids to experience the same.

-You work for or are a member of a non-profit organization that advocates for or works on the ground for the betterment of your group’s area of interest. Your involvement is welcome and guaranteed on public lands, and there is no such mechanism for State lands.

-You agree that resource extraction is a necessary component of modern society, but it should be guided by a transparent, public driven review and oversight process. Logging, ranching and mining on federal public lands is regulated and public input is incorporated into decisions.

-You breathe air, drink water, wipe your ass with toilet paper, walk in the forest or desert, look at the night skies, and listen to birds chirp. The Multiple Use Mandate imposed on our public lands ensures that ALL of these interests are considered in planning and management.

So, do you have a stake in the future of our national public lands? I think you do. Keep reading.

SOME HISTORY:

In the beginning, there were the First Nations peoples of Turtle Island. The European colonists arrived and killed most of them and stole their land. Almost all of this land in the eastern half of North America became privately owned because there was no government to oversee its distribution and claims to title. In the middle 1800’s some good people thought we should have some land reserved from unrestricted private use, so they laid the groundwork for institutions we now know as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and others. Slowly, eastern States had to catch up and buy private land and turn it into public land, which has been successful at a small scale. Now, public land is so scarce in much of the east that even private land owners agree to legally enforceable “Conservation Easements” which often effectively turn their land into publicly available parks and preserves. People want access to Nature, and they have fought for it for decades. But this isn’t about the east….

Over time, as western territories sought inclusion into the Union, agreements were drawn between the U.S. and the new State Governments. In all cases, in every western State, when the State joined the union, a clause was included in the “Enabling Acts” that generally follow this language, taken from Arizona’s Enabling Act:

“And said convention shall provide, by an ordinance irrevocable without the consent of the United States and the people of said State—That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof and to all lands lying within said boundaries owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes, the right or title to which shall have been acquired through or from the United States or any prior sovereignty, and that until the title of such Indian or Indian tribes shall have been extinguished the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition and under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States.”

What this basically says is that the States cannot seize the land, which they are trying to do, but they can receive the gift of the land. The Federal Government owns outright what it owns, until it gives it away. Over time, it did just that:
-Between 1866 and 1976, 270 million acres were given to homesteaders through the Homestead Act
-Between 1850 and 1871, 175 million acres were given to railroad companies through Railroad Acts
-Between 1803 and 1912, 220 million acres were given to 29 states to be used at the states discretion to fund education and other public institutions. These are now known as State Trust Lands.

In total, more than 40% of the contiguous 48 States non-federal land was given away by the government between 1802 and 1976. Most of these lands are now privately owned, which is good, private land is indeed good. We all live on private land. But, do we want everything to be private land? That seems to be the end game of many Tea-Party affiliated members of Congress, State Legislatures, rural westerners, and business interests. We have to come together and stop what is moving forward at every level of government.

So, what exactly is moving forward? I’ll tell you:
-In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which gave BLM managerial authority and conservation mandates over the remaining ungranted and unappropriated public lands in Americas West.
-In response, the cattle, logging, and mining industries revolted, because they would now have to follow rules for extracting resources on the public estate. Specifically, in Nevada and New Mexico, they galvanized a movement called the Sagebrush Rebellion. Ronald Reagan declared himself a Sagebrush Rebel, and then began the slow but steady growth of the anti-public-lands constituency in the rural west.
-Through the years, that movement did little other than bomb Forest Service and BLM buildings and threaten Federal employees with death threats. But they were also organizing at the grassroots level, getting their people elected to local, county and state seats west-wide.
-In 2012, the American Lands Council was formed to advocate for the land transfer. It has since worked at the grassroots level with counties and states to move the agenda forward.
-In 2014 a wave of super conservative Tea Party congress people were elected, bringing the anti-public-lands agenda to Washington D.C.
-Last January, we all remember the Bundy’s taking over the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. This is a template for more of these takeovers to come, as they were found not-guilty on all counts.
-Over the last few legislative calendars, western States, now dominated by hard-right conservatives, passed or proposed, at last count, 54 bills that support the idea of Federal Public lands being given, seized, conveyed or somehow transferred to State ownership. Every western State except California has passed some iteration of these ideas. DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION, VOICED IN NUMEROUS POLLS AND PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCH, WESTERN LEGISLATURES ARE CREATING THE FRAMEWORK TO RECEIVE A GIFT OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF OUR PUBLIC LANDS.

Remember, the enabling acts allow the Federal Government to give or sell the land to States, so the last straw in this transfer is an act by Congress, signed by the President to make this happen. Last autumn, the Republican National Committee’s “Party Platform” included this language:

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands, identified in the review process, to all willing states for the benefit of the states and the nation as a whole. The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live.”

The first step in that just happened. House Resolution 5, passed by the House of Representatives on January 2, 2017, includes a single paragraph, added by Utah Representative Rob Bishop (the most outspoken critic of our federal lands system), which states that any conveyance of Federal public lands to a State or other entity shall be considered budget neutral. This means that, for example, the Coconino National Forest has a financial value of $0.00 (that’s ZERO muthafuckin dollars), so it could be given to the State of Arizona with no loss of revenue to the Federal Government. Seems like a small detail, but it’s a necessary step for them to achieve their goal of stripping our public lands of regulation and opening them up to more and deeper resource extraction.

HOW DOES THE PUBLIC FEEL ABOUT THIS?
Obviously, this depends on who you ask. A rancher whose activities are affected by a National Monument designation will be in support of this. But informed citizens who may lose access to their favorite places will oppose it. Often, it’s the rancher who is heard louder than the passive recreationist who spends all their free time biking and none of it advocating for what’s important to us (hint, hint). When the voters get to decide, the issue is almost always clear – no land transfer, such as in 2012 when 68% of Arizonan’s voted against Proposition 120, which would have forced the public lands into State control. This is what some of the public opinion research says:

2016 poll by the National Park Foundation found that 95% of Americans said that protecting National Parks for future generations is important, and 80% would pay higher taxes to do so. (https://www.nationalparks.org/about/pressroom/press-releases/national-park-foundation-announces-study-determining-value-americas)

2016 “State of the Rockies” poll by Colorado College found that 58% of westerners oppose ceding management of public lands to the States, 60% oppose selling these lands to the States, and 72% think that public lands support our economy. (https://www.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/conservationinthewest/)

2016 “Winning the West” poll by Center for Western Priorities found that swing-state voters prefer a candidate who favors a balanced approach to conservation that preserves public access. (https://www.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/conservationinthewest/)

2014 “Western States Survey” Poll by the Center for American Progress found that 71% of respondents felt that public lands SHOULD belong to all Americans while only 24% felt they should belong to the States, and that 59% opposed State taxpayers assuming the burden of managing public lands, while only 35% approved of it. (https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/14863-CAP-Western-States-Survey.pdf)

Talk to your friends and family – what do they think? Better yet, talk to your political representatives!!!

WHAT MIGHT WE EXPECT?
This is scary. Due to arcane rules such as the Electoral College, and sneaky gerrymandering of congressional district boundaries, all levels of Government across the country are in Republican control. The official party platform calls for our National Forests, Parks, Wilderness Areas, and more to be conveyed to the States, where there are no rules for managing multiple uses, and plenty of profit-motive to fill budget deficits with royalties from widespread mining and logging – and outright sales of these lands to developers or wealthy ranchers.

I ANTICIPATE THAT BY SUMMER 2017 WE WILL SEE THE CONGRESS PASS LEGISLATION TO CONVEY OUR FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS TO WILLING WESTERN STATES, DESPITE WIDESPREAD PUBLIC OPPOSITION. LISTEN – YOUR JOB AND LIFESTYLE IS POTENTIALLY AT RISK OF RAPID AND DAMAGING CHANGE. DO SOMETHING!!

At that point it will be up to President Trump to veto any such bill. What do you think he will do?

I’ve given you the facts. Now ACT…..

-Tell your friends and family about this problem – get the word out!
-Sign this petition: http://www.outdooralliance.org/
-Do your research online and find out more. Look at those surveys. Find out how your rep’s have voted.
-Visit National Parks and Monuments, then buy something at a local store and tell them they just made a few bucks because there is protected public land nearby.
-Stop complaining to your friends about how the Forest Service is mismanaging or logging too much or closing your favorite trail – go to the district office, talk to the Ranger, get involved, and be a part of the democratic process.
-Run for public office on this issue. You’ll probably lose but you’ll bring attention to this robbing of our land.
-Call or write your Senators and Representatives. Tell them to oppose any such legislation.
-If Montana Representative Ryan Zinke is confirmed as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, call or write his office and ask that he stay true to his past statements that we should retain Federal ownership and control of our public lands.
-Talk to your city Chamber of Commerce and ask them to support public lands. Your business and job relies on it.
-Write a simple Letter to the Editor that just explains how public lands affect you personally. WE NEED TO BE HEARD!!
-Meet with or write to your city council or county supervisors and tell them to oppose the public lands transfer.
-Join an organization and give some money to support this (some organizations working on our behalf are: the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Outdoor Alliance)
-Call me and ask me more questions, ask where you can go for more info, and how you can help.

Thanks for reading this, now do something. We’re all going to look like pitiful losers if this goes through and we didn’t fight for what’s right.

Thanks for your time, and please get back to me with whatever comments you might have.”

Joe Trudeau
Conservation Ecologist · Prescott, Arizona

www.az-eco.com