How an East Coast think tank is fueling the land transfer movement

ALEC is becoming increasingly involved in the public lands debate by providing model bills for Western states.


This week, Idaho senators met to vote on a new bill that would let county sheriffs, commissioners, and mayors decide if an area of federal land is at risk of wildfire, and demand that the federal government fix it. If the feds – usually Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service – don’t respond, local officials could coordinate with the state to take legal action.

But the bill didn’t come to a vote – it was met with contention from the Idaho Senate largely because it was aligned with the effort to transfer federal lands to state control. The law is also an example of a larger trend of legislation in Western states being derived from model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC – not to be confused with the Utah-based American Lands Council (ALC) – is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 by conservative activist Paul Weyrich that works to push principles of free-market enterprise, limited federal control, and more power for state governments. The conservative policy group based in Arlington, Virginia, whose corporate advisory board includes Exxon Mobil and tobacco giant Altria, is funded largely by the Koch family and is becoming increasingly involved in the land transfer movement by providing bill templates, research and public support to Western legislators.  

Bureau of Land Management land in Idaho, where senators are considering ALEC-backed land transfer legislation.

The Idaho bill illustrates a pattern that seems to be developing in the West, says Center for Western Priorities policy director Greg Zimmerman. “Utah comes up with these ideas, passes them into law through their legislature, and through the ALEC network, [legislators] try and pass them in other states,” he says.

For instance, Utah Rep. Ken Ivory sponsored the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which demanded that Congress give states control of public lands. It passed in 2012, but little action has been taken to fulfill the bill's goals. About a year later, ALEC wrote a similar model bill for land transfer laws, urging “all executive officers of this State, to exert their full powers to cooperate and assist Utah and the other States” to sell public land to state governments. In 2014, Ivory received ALEC’s “legislator of the year” award.

Soon after Utah passed its Catastrophic Wildfire and Public Nuisance Act last year, ALEC released model legislation for other states using almost identical language. Last month, a bill with that language was brought to the Arizona state Senate, but it was killed because the counties opposed it.

“It’s a cookie-cutter bill,” Idaho state Sen. Roy Lacey, a Democrat, says, referring to Idaho’s Abatement of Catastrophic Public Nuisance bill. “When you see the same thing being done in Utah and other states, it smacks of ALEC. It’s a toe in the door [of land transfer legislation]: telling the federal government they’re not doing a good job.” 

The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank and ALEC member, played a major role in the bill proposal. Catastrophic wildfires are only worsening in the West, and fighting them already counts for over half the Forest Service’s budget. In Idaho, hundreds of thousands of acres burned last year, and the foundation places blame on the feds’ management decisions, underplaying the exceedingly complex impacts from drought and climate change. “It’s a simple bill and notion,” said Idaho Freedom Foundation vice president Fred Birnbaum. “Passing one piece of legislation won’t solve it but it does highlight the fact communities are threatened by federal forest land [management].” Birnbaum said the foundation was fully aware it was ALEC model legislation when they proposed it. 

As the land transfer movement gains traction in the West, the links between ALEC and Western lawmakers become more clear. For instance, the Federal Lands Action Group, a relatively new organization started by U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop from Utah, held a forum in Washington, D.C., to introduce land transfer legislation to interested politicians earlier this month. The first speaker at the forum was Karla Jones, an ALEC staffer. Stewart said ALEC was chosen to present because its views on public lands “aligned well” with the Federal Lands Action Group. Jones talked about ALEC’s model policies, urged a timely transfer of federal lands to states, and showcased ALEC’s available resources to help states successfully transition to state-based land ownership.

“There is a widespread narrative, especially among Americans living in the East, that the federal government serves as a better environmental steward of the Western lands than states or private entities would,” she said in a statement. “This is a fiction.”

ALEC has played a role in public lands debates as far back as 1995, when it drafted the “Sagebrush Rebellion Act,” to establish mechanisms for public land transfer to state control, though the act never passed. The Center for Western Priorities estimates that up to six of ALEC’s model policies advocate public lands transfer. Four years ago, ALEC provided model legislation to undermine the Antiquities Act and give states power in designating national monuments. Then in 2015, the organization released a white paper, which it cites regularly for legislators, that concluded states would serve as “superior environmental and economic stewards of select lands within their borders.”

Though some legislators, like Ivory, are publicly open about their ALEC membership, the group does not release who its members are. ALEC did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article. But according to Jones’ statements, more than 200 state legislators are members, and 85 members of Congress, seven governors, and four presidential candidates are alumni. In 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog organization started by former Department of Justice official Lisa Graves, launched a project to identify legislators in the U.S. with ALEC ties. According to the center’s latest data, each state in the West has at least a handful of politicians involved with ALEC – with the most being in Utah and Idaho. 

The Center for Western Priorities reported that, of the 36 public lands transfer bills introduced in state legislatures in the first half of 2015, a third were parroting ALEC legislation, either directly using its land transfer model policy or its other model policies, such as setting up land transfer studies or state public lands offices. This year, 14 bills have been introduced, Zimmerman says, and half have already been killed, including a transfer study bill in Washington and two bills regarding public access and land transfer in Wyoming.

Though the public nuisance bill doesn’t allow state officials to override federal decisions in wildfire management, it is an example of the burgeoning relationships between ALEC and Western legislators, says professor Robert Keiter, director of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah: “It seems to be directed at providing [more power] for state and local officials to influence on-the-ground-management of Forest Service, BLM, or other federal agencies.”

Lyndsey Gilpin is an editorial intern at High Country News. She tweets

William Petersen
William Petersen Subscriber
Feb 26, 2016 08:39 AM
ALEC's position on Federal land transfers doesn't end at the State level. ALEC also seeks to have States dispose of their own public land holdings as well. ALEC is responsible for many 'cookie-cutter' bills that have a hard-right, libertarian slant to them. ALEC also uses the argument that massively increasing private enterprises' resource extraction on these now 'privatized' lands will lead to a huge intake of tax revenues to drive down the Federal deficit. Considering the non-taxing slant of ALEC, one can assume that the proposed tax revenues of the resulting resource extraction would never occur.

In many instances ALEC 'model' legislation removes the ability of the voting public to have legislative abilities to check corporate actions at the local and state levels as well. ALEC has also been behind drafting Ag-Gag rules and other model legislation for reducing or undercutting democratic participation by the public at large.

If anything, ALEC is one of the most anti-democratic organizations operating today under the guise of 'free market libertarianism'
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 26, 2016 01:19 PM
Thanks. Great article that brings a lot of info together.

@ William: Yup. What they are doing is nothing more nor less than trying to steal from the taxpayers via legislation. I love the convoluted language they employ to try and get around restrictions, too, that nice flowery lawyer language that lets one know one should not bend over without checking one's six first.

From the Sourcewatch link: "In its 2009 IRS Form 990, in response to the question “Did the organization participate in lobbying activities” (page 3 question 4), ALEC replied “no.” [34]"

  Filing fraudulent federal tax returns is a federal crime. This organization and the responsible members have not been prosecuted for this, why? This information is right out in public, it's not like it's hard for the IRS to spot it, and the evidence is right there in North Dakota.

 This organization has been working on a long term agenda for nearly half a century. To say that they are working in America's best interests can be easily demonstrated to be disingenuous at best and in many instances quite the opposite. It's good they are getting media exposure, the more the better, as they obviously prefer to operate in secret. I think the public at large has made it clear they do not want anything the ALEC is selling. (so have nearly all state legislatures and state governors). So when do we say, enough is enough, and shut them down? How much pressure needs to be brought to bear on the appropriate authorities?

 Perhaps we need a version of RICO aimed at preventing this sort of thing ". Thoughts anyone?
(" allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing," - except aimed at breaking the lobbying laws and similar. )

David Bailey
David Bailey
Feb 26, 2016 03:30 PM
Regardless of the source of the bill, is there something wrong with states trying to protect their citizens from federal land mismanagement?
John Koenig
John Koenig Subscriber
Feb 26, 2016 04:03 PM
Regarding David Bailey's comment, nothing wrong with states trying to protect their citizens from supposed federal land mismanagement except that most of the time state land mismanagement is worse and more prone to collusion with corporate interests to extract natural resources regardless of the environmental damage this may cause.
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 26, 2016 04:15 PM
David, no, there isn't; and I wish this could be an article about that, there are real legitimate concerns (and they are being drowned out by this greedy filth) but the fact remains that nearly all western states simply DON'T WANT THE RESPONSIBILITY.

 Federal land mismanagement isn't what the ALEC is about. They want the land where it is easier for private developers to grab; they don't care about anything else other than that. The "state right to manage" is only one of the red herrings they are throwing out there to disguise their true agenda.
 The amount of evidence for this is vast, far too much to post here, but if you look at who's funding them and their history, you can see much of it. Their funding sources are well known.

The opposition to the AlEC's agenda among the states, state legislators, and public is overwhelming. Some state legislatures are refusing to hear anything the ALEC introduces, so they use third party tactics to get their "model legislation" introduced.
Please read the Sourcewatch link in the article.[…]change_Council#ALEC_Funding

 There's lots more out there


Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson Subscriber
Feb 26, 2016 06:58 PM
@David Bailey: "is there something wrong with states trying to protect their citizens from federal land mismanagement?"

As a US citizen and co-owner of all federal public lands, I certainly do think there is something wrong with alienating those lands from all Americans, wherever we happen to live. In my personal utility maximization model, the highest and best use of our federal public lands is as refugia for the native plant and animal species that are so sadly diminished on lands dedicated to resource extraction. I'd only support transferring ownership out of federal hands if I was assured that America's natural biodiversity heritage would be protected more strongly thereby.

Mr. Bailey doesn't say what he means by "federal land mismanagement", but if he wants our public lands managed for revenue maximization, then they need to be protected from him.
jim bolen
jim bolen Subscriber
Feb 26, 2016 10:53 PM
I remember at a breakfast talk at Mountianfilm in Telluride last year where the panel was rather dismissive of my question regarding the threat of states and private interests taking over our public lands. We need to wake up and be ever vigilant for there are powerful interests behind these attempt and it could happen. We are only one supreme court justice and a different president away of this possibly happening
Kenneth Keffer
Kenneth Keffer Subscriber
Feb 27, 2016 12:35 AM
When I hear news stories from the land transfer side they always frame the issue by saying they want to take the land back but the media never challenges them with the fact that they never owned the land so they can't take something back they never owned.
David Bailey
David Bailey
Feb 27, 2016 08:20 AM
I am tired of the red herring that public lands must be administered by the Federal Government. There are literally thousands of state parks and lands that public.[…]/Lists_of_state_parks_by_U.S._state

There are many, many cases of where the Federal Government has ignored local requests for managing the land in the way that is best for local citizens, including clearing out fallen trees to decrease the chance of wildfires like this article details.

The Federal Government is not all knowing and all beneficent when it comes to land management. Putting management of the lands closer to the citizens they serve will mean the land is managed in a way that works better for local citizens.
John W Stephens
John W Stephens Subscriber
Feb 27, 2016 08:56 AM
@ David Bailey: On the state level there is not the continuity of income to maintain these assets giving results like this in 2011:
On the federal level there seem to be attempts to cripple the public lands infrastructure by failing to fund it's upkeep so that politicians can point to "the failure of federal agencies," which is really the failure of federal politicians to do their jobs.
Personally, I would be behind making some federal lands in Nevada becoming state assets if I, and the other tax-paying owners were reimbursed fairly for the taking.
John W Stephens
John W Stephens Subscriber
Feb 27, 2016 09:04 AM
@ David Bailey again: You: "Putting management of the lands closer to the citizens they serve will mean the land is managed in a way that works better for local citizens."
Why should local citizens have priority over the wider national good? How local is local? I am in Colorado and travel through the four corners area. What if I owned a rental house in Cedar City? Am I local to that area because I own property there, even if I don't live there? Federal lands are supposed to be managed for the greater good for all. If the states were to take these lands over do you think they would give a hoot about what a Puerto Rican thought about how they were managed? Try giving input to a state legislator in a state you don't live in and see how well that works.
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 27, 2016 10:36 AM
Mr Bailey;
"I am tired of the red herring that public lands must be administered by the Federal Government. ". It's not a red herring (please look the word up). It's fact, and law, and has been so for generations, and upheld by the highest court in the land, is what the public wants.

 On the other hand, the "give the land back" movement IS a red herring, because it distracts and obfuscates the important issue of how those lands are going to be managed and fixing problems in management efficiency, by assuming that locals and states can do it better; which is a very broad assumption and in most cases simply not true.

"There are many, many cases of where the Federal Government has ignored local requests for managing the land in the way that is best for local citizens, including clearing out fallen trees to decrease the chance of wildfires like this article details."

Can you detail a few? I will note two things: 1) The FG does not have infinite resources, and 2) the FG will not always agree with the local that any action is desirable - the locals don't know everything, either, and there are many, many instances of locals and state officials mismanaging or not managing lands, as well, as in this case, trying to obtain the lands for purposes other than the ones stated (development).

"Putting management of the lands closer to the citizens they serve will mean the land is managed in a way that works better for local citizens. "

Prove it. Do a study that shows that locals do better. Otherwise, the preponderance of studies and evidence I have seen (and many others as wel) points the other way. The states know this, for the most part they don't WANT the burden of the public lands, they can't afford fire management, and don't want the responsibility. The public in general is massively against it, and the public is composed completely of "locals". ;)

Who's going to pay for it? The local taxpayers. I'm sure in most cases they really look forward to the additional tax burdens and fire assessments, etc, for something that probably will be sold to developers and they won't see a dime out of in the long run ( the public all benefits from federal lands).

  What makes you think you know better than they, and the Supreme Court, the legal experts who say it wouldn't work, the governors who don't want it done, the legislatures like Idaho's that refuses to hear ALEC proposals if they know that's where they came from, etc, etc, I could go on for paragraphs.... that's a pretty arrogant stance you've taken there, Mr Bailey. I challenge you to defend it.

PS. Yes, states have state parks, too. So? Most states and counties have enough trouble funding their management already, never mind adding millions more acres to the problem.
David Bailey
David Bailey
Feb 27, 2016 12:42 PM
We have too many public lands if the government can't afford to pay to manage them.

Sell some, lease others, and preserve the public forests and parks.

There are **literally** millions of acres under government control, not for conservation, not ecologically sensitive, but because after the states were added to the nation, those lands were never deeded back to the state.

This is broken. The federal government **can** continue to spend more than they take in, but we all pay for it anyway in inflation.

I think it's much more likely that a state will manage the lands to the betterment of the citizens who live there than a national government agency a few days drive away. Who cares if someone in a state days away doesn't like how it's managed? They get to direct how the lands in their state are managed.

Another red herring- The Federal Government doesn't have a constitutional right to own and manage these lands. States shouldn't have to pay the Federal Government to obtain what should have been transferred to them after statehood... just like all the other states.

A state politician is more likely to respond to their constituents to manage things "right" than a national politician.
Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson Subscriber
Feb 27, 2016 01:08 PM
@David Bailey: "Putting management of the lands closer to the citizens they serve will mean the land is managed in a way that works better for local citizens. "

As I tried to point out to Mr. Bailey in my first comment, and Mr. Stephens has also pointed out to him, "Why should local citizens have priority over the wider national good?"

How hard is it to understand: federal public lands belong to all Americans. That means someone living a thousand miles away from a parcel of it has as much right to a say in how it's managed as someone living adjacent to it. Why would living near federal public land give someone superior rights?

We all have our own ideas about how our lands might serve "the wider national good", but few of us would equate it with "the narrow local good". Regardless, the article makes it clear that the legislative attempts to alienate federal public lands from the federal public are intended to benefit wealthy private interests, not the public.
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 27, 2016 01:44 PM
Over, and over, and over, and over.

"were never deeded back to the state."
Check your facts. Never belonged to the states in the first place. This has been pointed out zillions of times.

"The Federal Government doesn't have a constitutional right to own and manage these lands."
(yes, this is a red herring - your sentence is!)

Wrong. The Supreme Court has ruled on this many times in the last century and a half. This is not debatable, unless you want to bring a case in front of them. No, it's not going to change, even if the GOP gets one of "their" justices on the bench. There are plenty of expert analysis out there pointing this out, again, many times.

You can ignore facts, but that doesn't make them less factual. You can't argue them away, Mr Bailey, as you seem determined to do.

"A state politician is more likely to respond to their constituents to manage things "right" than a national politician. "

Oh? What makes you think so? ... and WHICH constituents? The local ones, or the big rich campaign contributors?
 I'm sure some of them might. I'm equally sure most of them won't. Few state politicians seem to have any idea how to manage land properly. Heck many of them can't even manage themselves properly...

"I think it's much more likely that a state will manage the lands to the betterment of the citizens who live there than a national government agency a few days drive away. "

 That is your opinion. It is not supported by any evidence I've seen, yet. If you have some, bring it out. Otherwise your argument fails; and in any case, it's irrelevant, because as has been pointed out over, and over, and over, the STATES DON'T WANT IT. Are you deaf?

Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson Subscriber
Feb 27, 2016 01:56 PM
@David Bailey: "Another red herring- The Federal Government doesn't have a constitutional right to own and manage these lands. States shouldn't have to pay the Federal Government to obtain what should have been transferred to them after statehood... just like all the other states."

It's a matter of settled law that the American public has the right to own land in common, and that the federal government has the authority to manage that land on behalf of every American. That interpretation of the "property clause" of the US Constitution has been upheld by repeated Supreme Court rulings, as recently as 1976. It has not been overturned by any subsequent SCOTUS ruling or by constitutional amendment. Recent events in southeastern Oregon should leave no doubt that as a matter of practical reality, any alternative interpretation of the property clause is counterfactual. For one stubborn skeptic, insistence on his own interpretation was fatal. I'm not happy about that, but I am glad that law enforcement officers carried out their sworn duty to protect my rights in the federal public land.

I'm grateful to HCN for keeping me informed about the insidious political campaign to privatize our country's public lands. Supporters of that campaign are entitled to their opinions however ill-considered they may be, but I will take any action up to and including non-violent civil disobedience to keep it from succeeding.
David Bailey
David Bailey
Feb 27, 2016 09:09 PM
It is unconstitutional. And if you think it's fair, look at this map.[…]/File:Map_of_all_U.S._Federal_Land.jpg

Last comment. Rant away...
David Bailey
David Bailey
Feb 27, 2016 09:26 PM
Oh, and the so-called public lands managed by the federal government are also largely not accessible to the public.

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 28, 2016 09:25 AM
No, it is no unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has been very consistent maintaining that Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution allows the U.S. Federal Government to own and manage lands within all of its possessions (States, Territories, Commonwealths and such) in perpetuity. There is no obligation to dispose of the land in any way, whether by homesteading, sales, or transfer to State governments.[…]/RL34267_12032007.pdf[…]/[…]2Futlawrev&CISOPTR=9160

Disagree all you want, the SC has been very clear and consistent with what it has had to say on this issue for more than a century.*

*Malheur in particular: and

There's also this little provision from the Big C: "The Congress shall have Power to dispose of an make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States." (article 4)

"Fair"? Isn't that a liberal concept? ;)
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 28, 2016 09:52 AM
As to your first comment: First, let's see a percentage - come on, do some research. Ok, I'll do it for you:

http://westernpriorities.or[…]ring-Public-Land-Access.pdf (see chart on page 9)
(looks to me like access problems are more often because of too much surrounding private land, which is a common problem here where I live)
 (I have many more links here but am trying to keep this post short. hahah. )

... and... what's your point? By definition, private land is not accessible to the public at all, and that's where most of the "transferred" land would end up, since the states can't afford to manage it. Name me one state with a budget surplus they could or would apply to that. I challenge you to. Again. Because there aren't any! (Utah is the one state that has a lot of support for this, but state officials have brought up major budget questions. )

The states do NOT want it. Just a very FEW links for your edification:





(plenty more where those came from, not a single one - I haven't been able to find ANY - surveys or polls or whatever support your contentions. I have HUNDREDS of links to support what I and others post here. If not thousands. How about you, good sir? )

By the way everyone, this is a very good article:[…]/

Oh, and this one too:[…]ORv1IWH4GmCq6XSlAWNnHijjuUQ

I gotta stop now, other things to do, could do this all day :)

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 28, 2016 09:56 AM
Y'know, Kate, it'd be nice to have a place on the website where links like that could be contributed by readers.... just sayin' ;)

Cheers. I'm off on a hike into one of MY national forests. See you later.
Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson Subscriber
Feb 28, 2016 10:35 AM
@David Bailey : "[Ownership of land by all Americans in common] is unconstitutional."

Hmm, random guy on the Internet v. Supreme Court of the US: which one was explicitly given final authority to interpret our country's founding document, by article III of that very document? AFAICT, the name "David Bailey" doesn't appear in it. I'm willing to be proven wrong, of course.

@David Bailey: "And if you think it's fair, look at this map."

No, it's not fair (IMHO) that Americans don't own more land in common. That makes it even more important that we keep what we have.

@David Bailey: "Last comment."...followed by another comment: "Oh, and the so-called public lands managed by the federal government are also largely not accessible to the public."

Aw, man, you promised 8^(. If you're determined to keep arguing, though, it would help if your "facts" were true.

@David Bailey: "And MANY STATES DO WANT IT! "

Pro-tip: one doesn't advance a logical case by simply re-asserting one's unsupported opinions in a louder voice.

With that I'm done here, even if you're not. Feel free to have the last word and declare victory.
jim bolen
jim bolen Subscriber
Feb 28, 2016 10:59 AM
Andy you are correct the courts so far as agreed with you but if we get another one or two Scalias on the court, it could change. The courts are not infallible they make bad decisions in the past. Pre civil war court upholding slavery in the south and more recently like "citizens united case" giving more power to the corporate elite which are behind the state's attempts to take over our lands. Simply if we don't elect progressive candidates we will get a stacked court.
David where I live accessibility is not a problem so I would like to know where you are having a problem.AS Andy has mentioned it is not the Feds that are keeping you out but it is private property owners that are denying access. I don't know any states rights proponents who actively support confronting private owners demanding easements.
I live near Telluride where all the access problems are caused by private owners who have gained private ownership under the 1872 mining law act and have denied access on Wilson Peak and Bear creek. So if you want access, fight against laws such as the mining act and demand that private owners allow us access.
Kenneth Keffer
Kenneth Keffer Subscriber
Feb 28, 2016 01:11 PM
David Bailey said "There are **literally** millions of acres under government control, not for conservation, not ecologically sensitive, but because after the states were added to the nation, those lands were never deeded back to the state." David the land was never deeded to the states because they didn't exist before the fed gave the new states land to use but they never gave/deeded them all the land inside their boarder the states were made from federal land.

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 28, 2016 01:25 PM
@Jim - I'm not so certain Scalia would have decided in favor of the return the land people. He was a very strict interpreter of the constitution, and given the SC's sold stance on this issue over the last century and a half it's likely he'd have upheld previous decisions. Sadly, we will never know, now. I didn't agree with him on a lot of things but he was someone easy to respect.

 Yes, courts can make mistakes. But a solid and consistent set of decisions across differently aligned courts for more than a century is a pretty clear indicator that no mistake make there, wouldn't you think?

 This battle over the SC seat will be interesting, all right. I'm not all that certain it will result in a stacked court either way, however, not far enough long yet to tell where things will go, except that it'll be an epic battle.

"I don't know any states rights proponents who actively support confronting private owners demanding easements.".
  None that I've found in all the research, either, it's the other way around.

As far as I'm aware easements for that purpose are generally in the land contracts, it's enforcement that is lagging, as congress refuses to fund the resources and personnel necessary to do so properly. (guess who's working hardest at denying them that funding...)

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Feb 28, 2016 03:26 PM
Just another note: The war against the FS/BLM/etc is having another effect: underfunding of wildfire fighting resources, just when wildfires are increasing in intensity and number rapidly and the situation is going to get much, much worse.

To me, deliberately underfunding our firefighting resources at a time like is - and no David, the states can't afford to take up the responsibility, even if they could it would take years for them to get setup* - I regard it is a deliberate criminal act, as is trying to take away the public's lands by legislation, so they can be given to developers under the thinly veiled disguise of "returning the lands to the states and the counties".

 That's a place where the Bundy's etc did the public a service: by pushing themselves willy nilly into the limelight, they brought a lot of these issues to the forefront of public thoughts, where before these people liked to operate behind the scenes.

My opinions are my own and do not reflect on HCN or anyone else for that matter.


* Not even Utah or AZ, hardly shrinking violets when it comes to not liking Fed control. See
"Furthermore, the federal government currently spends between $200 and $300 million per year managing public lands in Utah, including fighting wildland fires. In comparison, the state can barely manage to fully fund its $12 million state parks budget. If Utah did gain control over federal public lands, Utah taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing them. "


"But with picking unwinnable fights that will cost her taxpayers a lot of money with very little hope of any return on investment, Brewer has her limits.

The Arizona version of the land grab bill, the governor said, provided no legal or constitutional grounds for such drastic action. And if it did succeed, she noted, it would saddle the state with the responsibility for maintaining millions of acres at a time when its budget is already overstretched. That's a much more logical view than the pipe dream held by Utah lawmakers, that the seizure of federal lands would be a fiscal bonanza for the state.

Brewer also pointed out, in an argument that had not been widely heard in Utah, that a long dispute over ownership of federal lands would taint leases and other arrangements that now allow mining, drilling and grazing on those lands. In other words, it would deter, rather than encourage, energy and agricultural development of those lands."
Toby Thaler
Toby Thaler Subscriber
Mar 01, 2016 12:54 PM
William Petersen mentions moves to get states to divest lands to counties. One such effort in Washington State:

A related move is to press the state for more money off "state trust forest lands." Here's one such action in Oregon:[…]/linn_county_plans_14_billion_l.html
John Costello
John Costello Subscriber
Mar 01, 2016 01:47 PM
Mr .Bailey,
One of the misunderstandings around this issue is the misperception that public lands managed by the Federal government belong to those people who live nearby. Not so. Nor should it be so. Those lands are expressly set aside for the use and enjoyment of the entire population of the country. And please don't be fooled....if public lands are transferred to states they will immediately respond to the financial burden by selling off the lands to extractive industries, and those won't be the "little local guy", but the international megacorps (read Koch Brothers).
Kyle Gardner
Kyle Gardner Subscriber
Mar 01, 2016 07:14 PM
No surprise here: ALEC has been plying its foul trade in "model bills" for quite some time. Ag-gag is also one of their specialties in screed. But their proposals ultimately face tough scrutiny long before they get out of committee. Even those "successes" have been turned back: Summer. 2015, Idaho judge ruled the Potato State measure unconstitutional, thus undermining the entire model. In fact the models are weak and the product of inadequate thought, something ALEC specializes in. Plenty of folks are on to the nasty troll and will continue to expose and litigate the whole rotten mess. Plus the organization is in a tailspin and likely on its last legs - good riddance!
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Mar 02, 2016 04:22 PM
 Yup, so far they are still on a steep uphill battle. But the inroads they've already made are staggering. I may have posted this link in this thread before, but here it is again:[…]/

Good news, and not so good news.

What it all boils down to, is that in order to knock this down, the public must, must, MUST get involved in this on a large scale, and that means educating people about what's going on. As long as this crap has been around, and as much power as they do yield, public opinion when directed properly can and will crush them. As you noted there are a lot of legal issues surrounding what they do, and if enough attention is brought on them there will be investigations; if enough people write their congress people and complain and demand answers. No politician can ignore his constit's too long...

 It's our land, but we still have to fight the barbarians to keep it that way. I suspect that it will always be so. I wonder how much of the enormous increase in national parks/etc this last years has been because of a budding awareness of these problems. Vote with your dollars, visit a national park!

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Mar 02, 2016 04:32 PM
"In fact the models are weak and the product of inadequate thought, something ALEC specializes in."

 Any model that's built off of a fantasized future / end result is highly unlikely to stand the rigorous testing of reality ;)

(I wonder if some of the trolls here have been ALEC members. Their logic seems similar, lots of strongly stated "self-evident" truth/hypothesis, little or no supporting data and a lack of knowledge about real-world empirical tests. Sigh. Our schools fail :( But then Don Quixote is still a popular folk hero. )

Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Mar 04, 2016 09:03 AM
On Quora.[…]-of-that-states-legislature

There's a couple good posters there who know what they are about. Another good place to take the battle. :)
William McConnell
William McConnell Subscriber
Mar 08, 2016 04:32 PM
All good arguments for keeping lands under federal control. But there is a pressing need for more local influence on decision making. Why? When a forest in Idaho cuts 3% of its annual timber growth and 98% of the growth dies (the current state average) and the town's sawmill shuts down, workers lose their jobs, families are disrupted, the county lays off half of the road maintenance crew, the school district trims its staff, increases class sizes and cuts out music, art, and other "amenities", the folks in New Jersey don't feel the pain at all. In fact they don't even know that the town exists. But they should have equal say in how the forest structures its program? Please!
William McConnell
William McConnell Subscriber
Mar 08, 2016 05:35 PM
Errata. In my Mar 08 post the mortality rate on national forest unreserved timberland should be 79%, not 98%. Sorry! Mac
Andy Grosland
Andy Grosland
Mar 08, 2016 06:05 PM
Then tell your congresscritter to fund these departments (fed, and state, AND county/city level) better so they have personnel and time to look at and evaluate every local problem better, rather than continuing to cut funding and asking them to do more work with fewer people and fewer resources. Make no mistake, while humans are plenty prone to errors in judgement - both feds and locals - one of the main reasons that mismanagement occurs is because of inadequate personnnel and resources to study problems - and also often because of interference from locals themselves, who probably don't have enough knowledge to do the right thing yet file lawsuits that actually hamper anything good happening. This sort of thing occurs on state, county and city level as well, as I'm sure you well know.


1) Any area that bases it's economy on one single industry rather than diversifying has no right to complain if that industry goes south. It happens constantly all over the states for many more reasons than federal management, and most of those places don't get special treatment either. They don't have the right to a guaranteed industry base; that's something they have to build themselves. That said, the FG will often compensate regions in cases like this - with New Jersey tax $ ;), yes- to help them recover and change. (Oh my god, socialism again!)

2) So do you think that letting them cut as much timber as they want, willy nilly, is a good thing? What about a generation down the road when the forest has been destroyed and NOBODY can cut any timber? What then? It has happened many times in the last couple centuries.

 One more thing. It is NOT the FG's job to fix every local economy problem that comes up (although there are some liberals and even quite a few conservatives who seem to think so). It's the LOCALS job to fix their economic woes, regardless of cause, although as I noted above, if there's taxpayer money available, the locals often get help. Diversify, find other ways to make a living. Tourism is huge nowadays and nearly always profitable, as long as you didn't destroy so much of your area to make it unpalatable... and there's other ways.

Laura Burns
Laura Burns Subscriber
May 25, 2016 07:30 AM
This is a wonderful thread for learning the facts of this issue and learning what the opposition believes. It should inspire those on both sides to continue to learn the facts and weigh the consequences.