The Liberal Blue View From the Left
Author: Alan WebberDemocratic primary candidate for Governor
The Conservative Red View From the Right
Author: Paul GessingPresident, Rio Grande Foundation
Currently, 28 percent of the U.S. and 42 percent of New Mexico are under federal control. No one is talking about privatizing Yellowstone (or Carlsbad Caverns), but the federal estate continues to grow and we at the Rio Grande Foundation believe that the Feds have more than enough land.
It is time to shift most if not all BLM and Forest Service lands to state control where leaders who are closer to the people and understand the issues of the West can do a better job of stewardship for the environment and taxpayers alike.
And by the way, you never explain exactly why “it is time” to turn federal land over the states. If it’s for the reasons the Bundy’s are on the rampage, it’s so we can drill, drain and damage the public’s land in the name of resource extraction and private financial gain.
Perhaps you think it’ll save taxpayer money. But a recent study found that turning federal land in Utah over to the state would cost Utah taxpayers $275 million per year. No bargain there!
If it all comes down to economics, let’s get real: the benefit of federal lands is not in extraction — it’s in tourism and recreation.
The Bundy’s don’t get that. Do you, Paul?
Fires have burnt out-of-control in the West on federal lands due in part to poor federal management techniques that allow forests to become overly-dense.
To this day, Native Americans manage and thin their forests. Washington lets them burn. The Little Bear fire burned more than 35,000 acres of National Forest land near Ruidoso in the summer of 2012. Locals including the President of the Mescalero Apache Tribe testified in Congress about his tribe’s success in managing the forests and contrasted it to the failure of the Forest Service.
No, there’s libertarian ideology hiding behind all this obfuscation and it’s simple: Like the Koch Brothers who fund the American Lands Council, you want to strip away federal protections from some of the most spectacular land owned by the American people and open it up for private gain. Drill, baby, drill! That’s the real motive here.
And as for those “bureaucrats” in Washington, D.C.: You’re talking about Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Gifford Pinchot and Stewart Udall, to name a few. I trust their vision more than the simplistic slogans of the Ammon Bundy’s of the world.
And, no, we are not talking about National Parks here. We are discussing “multiple-use” National Forests and BLM lands. Now, there are indeed a lot of trees on those Forest Service lands, but that doesn’t make them all “spectacular.” And the BLM controls lands nearly the size of West Virginia in New Mexico alone. Much of these are vast prairie.
It isn’t just the Kochs or Bundys who have concerns with federal land policies. Reies Lopez Tijerina’s Tierra Amarilla courthouse raid back in 1967 was due to federal encroachment on land grants here in Northern New Mexico.
The powerful like Teddy Roosevelt have used government for decades to push around those who stand in their way.
Let’s try to cut through all this false history. This dispute isn’t about who controls the land. It’s about what we value.
It’s about the enduring value of conservation—of handing down unspoiled land from generation to generation–versus the short-term fixation on extraction and development.
I’m going to give my last words to Teddy Roosevelt, who understood why nature mattered: “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” That’s what’s really at stake.
Roosevelt is a great hero for “progressives” because he didn’t respect limits on his power like“checks and balances.” To him, power flowed from a “great man” and that if you stood in his way, you should be dealt with harshly.
Ranchers and others who try to make a living on and around federal lands must often feel like Native Americans of Roosevelt’s time, trying to avoid being squashed by a far-off bureaucracy.
Courtesy ABQ Free Press