Political news has been all-consuming this week. The inauguration, Trump’s cabinet nominee hearings, ramifications of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. But there’s something newsworthy that you may not have heard about. Congress quietly passed legislation that puts public lands one step closer to demise.
The obscure and not highly publicized congressional budget rule change essentially does away with any value provided by national forests, wildlife refuges, and BLM land. Because the rule states these lands don’t provide any value, they can circumvent a law that prevents transfer of federal property if it hurts the budget. This makes it easier to transfer lands over to the states, which would destroy jobs, drop income gained from recreation, limit people’s access to nature, and increase use by private energy and property developers.
640 million acres of land belongs to all United States citizens.
Recreation income for public lands is $646 billion annually.
Public lands provide 6.1 million jobs in the United States.
What you can do
- Visit public lands! The best way to feel connected and benefit from public lands is to be there. Many are free or low cost to visit and offer hiking trails, ranger talks, and camping. Better yet, schedule a weekend getaway with friends or a family reunion on public lands to show loved ones how great they are. Here is a list and map of all federal public lands.
- Choose at least one federally controlled piece of public land that you particularly care about and become an advocate for it. It could be the Gallatin National Forest just outside of Yellowstone National Park, a nearby wilderness area, or BLM land in the Arizona desert. Find out what representatives cover that area and call them to let them know how much you enjoy and care about it.
- Become a member of a group that supports public lands. The Sierra Club is well known, has national and local chapters, and offers outings and a magazine. Outdoor Alliance brings together mountain bikers, hikers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and more to make a push for protecting the lands you love to be in. Public Lands Foundation’s first goal is to keep federally managed public lands in public ownership. They partner with the BLM and have an annual conference open to the public.
- Tell your representative you care about public lands. Many of us are getting to know who represents us on the state and federal level. Take it a step further and contact them! Here’s how to find contact information.
- Pay attention to the next head of the Department of Interior (most likely Ryan Zinke). That person will set the stage for how our federal government administers public lands. Start with this article from Scientific American: Public Lands and the Environment under Interior Nominee Zinke: A Mixed Bag.