I’m sure you’ve recently heard about the fight to keep our federal lands from being handed over to state ownership. Ya know, the “keep public lands in public hands” stand.
And if you haven’t, I present to you my own understanding of what we are dealing with here:
Public lands are areas like national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, parks, and wilderness areas. Public lands in America, allow, and even promote, adventuresome roaming and recreation. The idea of public lands is that they are owned by all for all. An American ideal. While the vast freedom we have to enjoy our wilderness areas are incomparable to anywhere on earth and they are now in danger of being privatized.
But how does federal land go from being public to private land? The answer is held within the state’s ownership. Once federal land is given over to the state to manage, that land is more often than not auctioned off to private parties because the state cannot afford to maintain the land.
Privatizing land often results in a few individuals gaining wealth, and the remaining others to pay the price. Whether it means no access at all, or extraordinarily high prices in order to just be able to legally access the land, having this happen on an even larger scale in the future would prevent recreation in many wilderness areas. The privatization of large amounts of current public land would not only take away our freedoms as Americans, but would also put millions of jobs at risk.
The concern for the privatizing of public lands is primarily in the west where I would argue, is home to some of our most pristine trails, vastly dense forests, stunning mountain ranges, and magnificent watersheds. There have recently been a variety of bills that plead for the transfer of federal lands to the states of the west, giving states control of once federally managed land.
For example, the state of Nevada began its statehood with 2,100,000 acres of land. They have since sold 1,958,000 acres. 93% of the land that was once public has since been sold off to private parties.
Now that you get the idea, this is where opinion and bias and all that jazz comes in. Whether you think this is an area for concern or not, this is an event to which has sparked a diverse activist community.
From what I have seen thus far, the fight for public land has been loud and the voices of all those who are fighting have been heard. Big companies like Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Keen and Chaco are publicly backing the conservation of public lands. I have seen videos and read many articles in regards to the threat that our public lands face. This is all super encouraging for someone who is passionate about the topic. But what I have found most exciting and fascinating about the whole deal is the collaboration between many groups of people that we don’t usually get to see. In the words of my father: “So now, the Patagonia wearing people and the camo wearing people are coming together to fight for the same thing.” And it’s the truth. No matter what we use public lands for, the reality of the matter is that we are all fighting for the same thing. We just want access to the land that makes us feel the most free, the most American and allows us to do what we all truly love on that land. Whether that is hiking, hunting, fishing, rafting, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing or any other outdoor recreation you partake in on public land. It isn’t everyday that this diverse of a group of people is seen all fighting for the same thing.
With that, I have a lot of hope that the right decision(s) will be made. But it’s no time to stop fighting now. There’s still much work to be done for many activists in order for these lands to be dealt with as seen fit by many. What I would just like to highlight is the journey. Let us celebrate this time of such a collaboration amongst groups of people that usually don’t want to be associated with one another. Let us remember and learn from this time.