Here's why public lands should remain in public hands
Imagine a world where the wild wasn’t, well, wild. Where lands were valued by how much they were worth in oil and coal rather than adventure and preservation.
In the past few months, this convoluted issue of who should control public lands has been a hot topic among political forces and environmental agencies. It’s a battle of wealth versus health - the latter being incredibly more important in many people's minds.
As of today (and, hopefully, the foreseeable future), Americans share ownership of 600 million acres of lands and water. The public lands encompass national parks, forests, state-owned and local areas, as well as wildlife refuges and monuments.
Americans may share ownership of these lands, but thanks to organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, these areas are safeguarded and preserved through a variety of campaigns and initiatives.
These initiatives include: reforming oil and gas development on public lands; supporting conservation program budgets and other conservation tools; protecting public lands, and reforming the 1872 Mining Law.
The initiatives and campaigns set forth by environmental organizations seem self-explanatory, right? Protect, reform and conserve the lands that millions of Americans and non-Americans alike enjoy every day. So why is this even an argument?
Because political hands swapped from righteous to riches.
In 2014, 72 percent of voters in America stated that they considered public lands to be “American places that belong to everyone in our country.” The other 28 percent stated that public lands belong to residents of the states where those lands are found. The majority had spoken.
Fast-forward three years, and the majority of voters no longer have the last word.
While the majority of Americans believe in keeping public lands public, we now must voice our opinions rather than hike in silence.
Why speak out?
Currently, a number of fossil fuel-backed extremists are mobilizing in the U.S. Congress and attempting to dismantle the protection of public lands. If they achieve their goals, vast proportions of lands from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will be sold to oil, mining and logging companies.
In order to succeed, laws must be enacted that require Congress to give millions of these acres over to the individual states. The states can then do what they please, and they are typically pleased with money; large sums of money, to be exact. Large sums that are already coming from public lands being protected; but researching and looking at the big picture isn’t always a strong suit against those with oil dripping down their chins.
Last year, the business of outdoor recreation - which relies almost exclusively on public lands - supported more jobs; 6.1 million to be exact. That’s more jobs than oil, natural gas and mining combined.
Americans also spend more on outdoor recreation annually ($646 billion), a large portion of which is spent on public lands - more so than on electronics, pharmaceuticals or automobiles.
72% of voters
in America consider public lands to be places which belong to everyone across the USA
Still not convinced that keeping our public lands protected is a wise idea? Still convinced that drilling for oil in public lands will create more jobs?
During the peak recession (2008-2011), wilderness gateway towns (close to public lands) created a sustainable economy that helped grow the outdoor industry 5 percent every year. It would seem that the people had spoken, and so had their pocketbooks. But sometimes facts aren’t enough, and voices must be louder to protect the things that can’t speak for themselves.
Help keep the wild, wild. Help keep public lands in public hands, instead of the aforementioned small, greedy ones.