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Public Lands

According to the United States Geological Survey, nearly half the land in the Western United States is owned by the federal government. Many Western states are arguing if the federal government turns over its property in the West to the states, it will result in better environmental stewardship of the land, as well as lower management costs.

The Issue

Environmentalists support federal government land ownership in Western states because they say these lands contain the most biologically and environmentally valuable ecosystems in the nation that need to be protected by federal officials from less-environmentally concerned states. However, national parks, national monuments, and federal wilderness areas would be excluded from any future land transfers.

Congress created federal agencies to control Western lands under the belief central authorities would dispassionately apply science to determine the best use of natural resources. Instead, management decisions regarding recreation use, commodity production or restoration activities depend on budget appropriations and special interest battles. This leads to gross mismanagement of public lands, leaving Western communities at risk of wildfires, soil erosion, and other environmental problems that impose steep economic costs.

Our Stance

Without allowing market forces to have a greater say in how federal lands are used, Western states will continue to suffer economic and environmental disadvantages.