July 07, 2015

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.

Red Rocks
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?

Alaska

Alaska

Arizona

Arizona

Colorado

Colorado

Idaho

Idaho

Montana

Montana

Nevada

Nevada

New Mexico

New Mexico

Oregon

Oregon

Utah

Utah

Washington

Washington

Wyoming

Wyoming

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I oppose this bill in repulsion of restricting climbing access.

The gippers legacy continues all meant to keep assets / money flowing from the public to the upper tier. Press your politicians to say no.

Protect Public Lands and Climbing Access...for everyone to enjoy.

Who are the politicians proposing these bills? This sounds like a bunch of foolishness and I don't really see any of it passing. Give me a break AF

I oppose this bill in repulsion of restricting climbing access

There are some fallacious arguments being made in this article - such as states not being able to afford to manage the lands. Where do they think money comes from that the federal government uses to currently manage the lands? Does it grow on magical federal trees? No - it comes from you and me. If we don't have the feds managing lands that should belong to the states, we can decrease their budget and leave the money in the states to manage the land by the people most interested in taking care of it. Don't believe the scare tactics that they use saying that all our climbing areas will be sold off to the highest bidder - that's just nonsense. Instead ask them why some of their partners opposed Montana SB 215 - a bill that proposed to prevent any sale of lands transferred from the federal government.

is there a petition to sign here?

Great points, Golden. There are some distinct differences between federal land management and state land management, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. The mission of federal land agencies (e.g. BLM, USFS, NPS) includes opportunities for the public - in essence providing some of the truest forms of public lands. State Lands are not fundamentally open to the public, and in our experience, are much more problematic for climbing and other recreation access. State Land agencies are typically more concerned with liability and can more easily sell off lands to raise money for the state. Although transferring federal lands to individual states may save the federal government money that could be spent on state initiatives, that does not necessarily mean that states will use that money to improve access and and allow recreation. In fact, states like Nevada, Arizona and Wyoming provide important historical context for this issue, and show us the danger of federal land transfers. Those states have sold much of the lands acquired from the federal government and removed public access to those lands forever. Here is an interesting article on this topic: http://www.wyofile.com/column/land-land-lets-keep-public-public-lands/

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