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for people who care about the West

Ignoring public voices


Jonathan Thompson points out an issue common to discussions concerning public-land management in the West (“Local hands on public lands,” HCN, 3/19/18). Some locals and sometimes large companies, including foreign business interests, have a “vested financial interest” in public-land management decisions because they have grazing leases, oil and gas leases, mining or timbering interests, outfitting rights, etc., on or adjacent to the public lands in question. The rights and opinions of the majority of the American public are largely left out of the decision-making process because the system is set up to give disproportionate weight to entities with the loudest voices and best access to decision-makers.

Ranching, agriculture, mining and development interests have focused priorities, whereas the general public, which is not profiting monetarily, is not involved in the decision-making process proportionate to our numbers. Put another way, vested financial interests wield a disproportionate amount of power and influence over public-land decision-making. The majority of the public, even in the West, is mostly unaware of the process and of who has the power to make decisions, much less a clear understanding of what is at stake. Our country needs to find a way to guarantee more balance in our public-land decision-making process.

Robert Luce
Sierra Vista, Arizona