America’s Public Lands under Siege
A battle is currently looming in Congress over the transfer of a huge swath of America’s public lands in the west—putting millions of acres (and the climbing opportunities they offer) under siege.
A group of politicians have written bills proposing that individual states “take back” America’s parks, Bureau of Land Management lands, national forests, wildlife refuges, and open spaces, arguing that these lands and the profits that they generate should belong to the states. In an economically choked state like Nevada, where greater than 80 percent of the state’s land is owned and operated by the federal BLM, this kind of thinking is gaining traction. Imagine how profitable it would be for Nevada to sell off federally protected lands for development? Sadly, that might mean never getting to climb at Red Rocks again.
And Nevada isn’t the only state attempting to seize public lands. Right now, there are bills in front of Congress that propose the transfer of public lands in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Over 5,000 individual cliffs, containing over 29,000 climbing routes are threatened by these bills. This includes gems like Red Rocks in Nevada, Cochise Stronghold in Arizona, South Platte and Shelf Road in Colorado, Indian Creek in Utah, Liberty Bell in Washington, and Wild Iris in Wyoming, as well as countless other climbing areas on National Park Service, US Forest Service, and BLM lands.
Some bills demand that the US turn over all public lands to state governments, including national parks and Wilderness areas. Others demand that states pay large sums of money to study whether seizing public lands would be profitable. The bills under consideration in Congress range from disturbing to downright unconstitutional—but there are some powerful and well-funded interest groups behind the legislation, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, American Lands Council, and Federal Land Action Group.
If this kind of legislation is successful, our prized public lands and climbing areas would be on the auction block. Even if an individual state didn’t choose to cash in on public lands, but instead attempted to manage them for continued public enjoyment, the reality is that most simply could not afford it. A single wildfire can cost $100 million to fight, which would bankrupt most state budgets, requiring them to sell or auction off the land. The federal government safeguards these lands for all Americans, and their collective management of public lands provides the funds and resources needed to protect those in dire need.
Even if the more extreme bills don't pass, the concept of selling off federal land could gain traction over time—unless we speak up now. Once our public lands are gone, they’re gone for good, and there is no replacing them or the countless climbing and recreation opportunities they offer.
The Access Fund is working closely with our partners at the Outdoor Alliance and other recreation and conservation groups to fight this legislation and ensure our public lands remain accessible to everyone. Hunting and angling groups—including Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—are also rallying against these bills. Keep an eye out for Action Alerts that will rally our community.
Visit www.protectourpublicland.org to learn more and sign up for regular updates on our campaign to safeguard public lands.
Curious which recreation areas are threatened in your state?