Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Let the West Control Their Own Land

 

Washington DC controls less than 5 percent of the land in the United States. Well, states in the east and Midwest, that is. Look west of Kansas, and the feds control 50 percent of the land. To illustrate the disparity, I did what I do, and created a map.

Thankfully, some GOP congressmen and new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are working to reduce the Beltway’s role, at least a bit. They’re looking into abuses of the Antiquities Act, a law that gives the White House unilateral power to designate millions of square miles off limits to its citizens. Obama created 22 new national monuments with the stroke of his pen, more than any other president. Looking back at the entire post-war period, Democratic presidents have proclaimed 60 monuments compared to just four by Republicans.

Arizona Reps. Trent Franks, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar joined several other congressmen in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, asking him to roll back a handful of these power grabs. The letter was in response to an executive order asking Zinke to review 27 monuments, especially those created in the past two decades under the often-abused Antiquities Act.

Signed in 1906 with the best of intentions, the act was intended to protect prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on federal lands, but limits proclamations to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects.” Ignoring this clear language, President Obama’s monuments regularly exceeded 1 million acres.

As usual, the critics of this idea are shrieking about mustache-twirling mining magnates, never realizing that they’re demanding the Trump administration control these lands instead of the progressive governments of California, Oregon, et al.

While Zinke’s efforts are appreciated, western states deserve a much more fundamental reform. There is no reason for the feds to control so much of the west while controlling so little of everywhere else.

As he looks to rebalance the ledger of federal vs. state lands, Secretary Zinke should consider a more fundamental reform: transferring a portion of these millions of acres to the states. Obviously, national parks, military bases and congressionally designated wilderness areas will remain in federal hands, but other public lands will be better managed by local leaders than by Washington bureaucrats.

Back in the 19th century, the federal government controlled as much as 90 percent of the land in Midwestern and southern states. These states appealed to Congress, which eventually handed over the vast majority.

Western states deserve the same authority that the rest of the country enjoys. We can govern our own lands and managing the use and growth more effectively than Beltway functionaries.

And if state leaders fall down on their jobs, it’s far easier for Arizonans to hold them accountable at the ballot box.

This is the only fair and just solution, both for western Americans and for all the other Americans who are footing the bill to manage these lands. Do you agree?

There are 38 comments.

  1. Judge Mental Member

    I’ve always thought the Manhattan Island National Monument would be an excellent way to illustrate to the east coast what the feds do out west. Give people 30 days to vacate so it can be restored to its pristine natural state.

    • #1
    • August 2, 2017, at 7:36 AM PDT
    • 25 likes
  2. Hammer, The Member

    Agreed. It is absolutely ridiculous.

    Another point is that the way they “manage” fires (and limit logging) tends to create ever more massive fires when they do happen. Al Gore can do all the work on his next movie, and I suppose he’s partially right about man-made disasters, just not in the way he thinks he is.

    • #2
    • August 2, 2017, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Pilli Inactive

    I would love to see national forest lands sold to private entities. Put the land up for auction and let the highest bidder buy it. The money generated from the auction could go toward…Oh, never mind.

    • #3
    • August 2, 2017, at 7:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think they should just auction off the land that isn’t part of the National Parks and use the funds raised to pay down the debt.

    • #4
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. John Walker Contributor

    Pilli (View Comment):
    I would love to see national forest lands sold to private entities. Put the land up for auction and let the highest bidder buy it. The money generated from the auction could go toward…Oh, never mind.

    I did a quick crunch of the numbers on this in a December, 2008 Gnome-o-Gram.

    Based upon the data I found at the time, there were 432 million acres of land considered “federal land” held under the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. This does not include national parks, military facilities, or federal properties such as office buildings. The 2008 estimate of total out-year obligations of the Federal government (including debt and entitlement obligations) was US$ 56.4 trillion. If you divide that by 432 million acres, you find that the U.S. would have to realise a sale price of US$ 130,000 per acre to retire the debt. As I concluded at the time, “I think that even if you threw in the national parks and all of the District of Columbia, you’d come up laughably short. … ‘How much are we bid for this aircraft carrier group?’ ”

    • #5
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:12 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  6. Larry3435 Member

    Here in Nevada, the hysterical reaction of local Democrats to Zinke’s review leads me to believe that this is a symptom of “Obama-Messiah” syndrome. The Gold Butte National Monument (designated by Obama in the last days of his lame duck term, and after Trump had been elected) is really no different from millions of square miles of other desert land in Nevada, except that some Indian scrawled a stick figure on a rock, leading other Indians to proclaim the whole area to be “sacred land.” This designation was clearly just a vindictive slap in the face at red-ish Nevada, just as the nearby Bears Ears National Monument (designated at the same time) was a vindictive slap at deep red Utah. But these were actions taken by the Messiah Obama (presumably as he walked on water), and therefore the support of local Democrats for preserving the designations is about on a par with what you would expect if someone announced that the Grand Canyon was being opened for strip mining.

    • #6
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:16 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  7. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Actually the 5% stat is misleading. Including Indian reserves, Governments hold almost 40% of land. Also were are you getting your data? I have 1996 data and it’s showing 8.7%. I don’t think the government has sold off or given to the states over 40% of its land holdings over the last two decades.

    • #7
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Interesting graphic. The red inset states under-represent the magnitude of the area of federal lands because they scale by linear dimension instead of area. For example, Wyoming is about 50% federal land and the little Wyoming is a rectangle with about half the length and width of the full-sized Wyoming. Such a rectangle has 1/4 (25%) the area of the larger one, which makes it seem that only 1/4 of the land is federal in Wyoming. In other words, you could fit about four red Wyomings inside the blue Wyoming.

    This error is one of the many covered in How to Lie with Statistics, though not with intent to deceive in this case. Usually, this trick is used to intentionally misrepresent the facts. In this case, it works against the point you’re trying to make.

    • #8
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:25 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  9. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Good post, but as a native of California I have to ask, “Would that land be used more wisely by the Federal Government or the current California Government?” In this singular case, maybe it’s better off with the Feds.

    • #9
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Von Snrub Inactive

    I had an argument about this with a friend of mine’s husband, a liberal. He basically said any sale is THE END of our National Parks. Even the sale of a single acre would be the end of the world. The land would be raped of it’s resources and beauty. My stating that much of the land is already leased for those exact reasons did not change his mind in the least.

    We are dealing with extremists.

    • #10
    • August 2, 2017, at 8:59 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Locke On Member

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    Interesting graphic. The red inset states under-represent the magnitude of the area of federal lands because they scale by linear dimension instead of area. For example, Wyoming is about 50% federal land and the little Wyoming is a rectangle with about half the length and width of the full-sized Wyoming. Such a rectangle has 1/4 (25%) the area of the larger one, which makes it seem that only 1/4 of the land is federal in Wyoming. In other words, you could fit about four red Wyomings inside the blue Wyoming.

    @JonGabriel He’s right. You ought to be scaling both your x and y by sqrt(fed_fraction), so that x * y ends up scaled by fed_fraction.

    • #11
    • August 2, 2017, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. HankMorgan Coolidge

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    Interesting graphic. The red inset states under-represent the magnitude of the area of federal lands because they scale by linear dimension instead of area. For example, Wyoming is about 50% federal land and the little Wyoming is a rectangle with about half the length and width of the full-sized Wyoming. Such a rectangle has 1/4 (25%) the area of the larger one, which makes it seem that only 1/4 of the land is federal in Wyoming. In other words, you could fit about four red Wyomings inside the blue Wyoming.

    This error is one of the many covered in How to Lie with Statistics, though not with intent to deceive in this case. Usually, this trick is used to intentionally misrepresent the facts. In this case, it works against the point you’re trying to make.

    He’s right. To represent the area proportionally you would need to scale the x/y axes by the square root of the ratio. Continuing with the (approximated) Wyoming example you’d scale each axis by sqrt(.50), or .707, thus the Area = Length*Width becomes (.707)Length*(.707)Width, which simplifies to (.50)*Length*Width.

    This problem gets worse the smaller the proportion held by the government. So Wyoming’s label is 50% while it is only shown on the map as 25%, Michigan’s label is 10% while it is only shown on the map as 1%. Changing the map to accurately represent area will cause every state’s red area to increase, which will reinforce the point about how much the west is controlled while slightly undermining the comparison to the east.

    I hope Jon will fix it up as it’s a very clever and informative map.

    • #12
    • August 2, 2017, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Doug Watt Moderator

    As far as the Feds managing the land properly you might want to read this article about the Canyon Creek fire in Oregon.

    There are no guarantees in firefighting, a treacherous and difficult job under any circumstances. Conditions were as bad as they could get last year. And by August, large wildfires were already burning in Oregon, Washington and California. By the time winds whipped flames toward Canyon Creek on Friday, Aug. 14, no amount of resources could have stopped them.

    Beyond the missteps last summer, the Canyon Creek fire highlights the inability of the Forest Service to manage dueling missions of firefighting and forest management. It’s a national problem that has smoldered for decades and left millions of people and their properties exposed to risk.

    Blame decades of fire suppression, selective harvesting of big and more fire-resistant trees and environmental pushback that subsequently limited logging. Together, they’ve created a system of national forests littered with dead and downed trees, dried needles and low branches. Conditions are acute in eastern and southwest Oregon, where historically fire-adapted forests have been turned into overstocked tinderboxes.

    Federal mismanagement of Federal lands is the norm, not the exception in the West.

    • #13
    • August 2, 2017, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Paul Dougherty Member

    This is a chart (ISER/UAA) that shows the breakdown of ownership evolution from 1958 (Statehood-near 100% Federal) to 2000. Not much has significantly changed since 2000. Even within the slim sliver of private ownership, resources cannot be held privately. The resources are owned in common by the citizens, collectively. A big shout-out to the State Founders who where very enamoured with socialist idealism. Unironically, it was recently revealed that, as a State, Alaska is the most equitable. We have the fewest number of millionaires per capita in the Union.

    Translation- the amount of private wealth is low while the State has 60 billion in the bank. That sounds cool, but one would be surprised how fast the State can burn through that, what with the future of oil being so…. tenuous. Our economy is fundamentally run by an inept committee (Governor and legislators) so the wise money won’t be on them for a long term solution. Look again at the sliver of private land in the above chart and maybe you can suggest where our economy will come from. I am not hopeful.

    • #14
    • August 2, 2017, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Doug Watt Moderator

    Here is a map that shows both surface and subsurface lands under control of the Federal government. This map includes National Parks and Indian Reservations. Although in Arizona the Reservations are considered sovereign nations they still are subject to BLM, Forest Service, and EPA governance. In other words building casinos is okay, when it comes to mining, logging, or ranching their sovereign status is not so sovereign.

    • #15
    • August 2, 2017, at 10:08 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  16. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Selling off federal lands wouldn’t pay off the debt, as @johnwalker pointed out, but it could make a decent dent in the deficit. If you include underutilized or vacant federal buildings as well, you could lower the deficit fairly significantly – perhaps provide the federal government with some breathing room of lower deficits before they start making controversial cuts. (which is any – because anything a democrat doesnt like is controversial) On the day that the real credit crisis comes to the United States.

    Canada has the same problem but much much worse – only about 11% of Canada’s landmass is privately held. Granted about 25% is the “Canadian Shield” and is permafrost and muskeg – so the private utility of these lands are somewhat limited.

    • #16
    • August 2, 2017, at 10:08 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yes

    • #17
    • August 2, 2017, at 10:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great map, Jon–very illustrative. So my question is, what is the value in dollars of this land on the open market? Maintaining control is definitely an usurpation of power by the Feds. What else is new? But they do own it now. OK, I’m answering my own question as I type. Yes, the Feds should give prudently as much land back to the States as they can.

    • #18
    • August 2, 2017, at 11:14 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I have been saying the same thing for years-sell the Western lands to the users, not to the states. Let those ranchers own their grazing land. If they owned it, they’d use it to its best use and not waste it. Funds generated could go to help reduce the national debt-nothing could eliminate it entirely.

    • #19
    • August 2, 2017, at 11:15 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Merrijane Thatcher

    I envy Texas’s ability to prevent the federal government land grabs. Utah could take a lesson.

    • #20
    • August 2, 2017, at 12:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Here is a map that shows both surface and subsurface lands under control of the Federal government. This map includes National Parks and Indian Reservations. Although in Arizona the Reservations are considered sovereign nations they still are subject to BLM, Forest Service, and EPA governance. In other words building casinos is okay, when it comes to mining, logging, or ranching their sovereign status is not so sovereign.

    Much better. Nevada, Arizona, and Utah are much redder in this (correct) figure than in the figure in the OP. The eastern states still look quite different from the west, even with the correct area representation.

    Adding percentage overlay on each state would be the icing on the cake, for those who are numerically oriented.

    • #21
    • August 2, 2017, at 12:31 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Stad Thatcher

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    This error is one of the many covered in How to Lie with Statistics,

    I have a copy of this book. It was written in 1953 by Mr. Huff. Or was it 1954? Anyway, the discussions and examples in it make me have zero faith in any poll, even one that supports my position. I’ve recommended this book in posts before, and I recommend it again. Buy a copy!

    • #22
    • August 2, 2017, at 12:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. Stad Thatcher

    Merrijane (View Comment):
    I envy Texas’s ability to prevent the federal government land grabs. Utah could take a lesson.

    I agree. Dang, can your eyes get any bluer?

    • #23
    • August 2, 2017, at 12:51 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. barbara lydick Coolidge

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    If they owned it, they’d use it to its best use and not waste it.

    ‘Twas always thus. While volumes have been written actually proving this, try convincing a leftist.

    • #24
    • August 2, 2017, at 1:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Larry3435 Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    I have been saying the same thing for years-sell the Western lands to the users, not to the states. Let those ranchers own their grazing land. If they owned it, they’d use it to its best use and not waste it. Funds generated could go to help reduce the national debt-nothing could eliminate it entirely.

    I certainly agree in principle, but keep in mind that a lot of the ranchers don’t want to own the land. As long as they control the water sources, they are happy to pay a grazing fee and use the land just as if they did own it. It’s actually quite a bit cheaper for them to pay the grazing fee than to buy the land and pay the taxes.

    • #25
    • August 2, 2017, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Z in MT Inactive

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    I have been saying the same thing for years-sell the Western lands to the users, not to the states. Let those ranchers own their grazing land. If they owned it, they’d use it to its best use and not waste it. Funds generated could go to help reduce the national debt-nothing could eliminate it entirely.

    I certainly agree in principle, but keep in mind that a lot of the ranchers don’t want to own the land. As long as they control the water sources, they are happy to pay a grazing fee and use the land just as if they did own it. It’s actually quite a bit cheaper for them to pay the grazing fee than to buy the land and pay the taxes.

    Also, I do think we have to remember the value of recreation on public lands. While ranchers graze their cattle on public lands, the public can still hike, camp, hunt, off-road, snowmobile, shoot, fish, etc. without permission.

    • #26
    • August 2, 2017, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Judge Mental Member

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    I have been saying the same thing for years-sell the Western lands to the users, not to the states. Let those ranchers own their grazing land. If they owned it, they’d use it to its best use and not waste it. Funds generated could go to help reduce the national debt-nothing could eliminate it entirely.

    I certainly agree in principle, but keep in mind that a lot of the ranchers don’t want to own the land. As long as they control the water sources, they are happy to pay a grazing fee and use the land just as if they did own it. It’s actually quite a bit cheaper for them to pay the grazing fee than to buy the land and pay the taxes.

    Also, I do think we have to remember the value of recreation on public lands. While ranchers graze their cattle on public lands, the public can still hike, camp, hunt, off-road, snowmobile, shoot, fish, etc. without permission.

    Seems like a land cooperative might be the way to go; ranchers, ATV renters, cabin owners, and so forth, get together and buy the land as a group for shared usage.

    • #27
    • August 2, 2017, at 3:10 PM PDT
    • Like
  28. D.A. Venters Member

    Gotta have some place to set off nukes, right? Sorry, Nevada…if you had more plants, you know… things would be different. Probably.

    • #28
    • August 2, 2017, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Jules PA Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Here is a map that shows both surface and subsurface lands under control of the Federal government. This map includes National Parks and Indian Reservations. Although in Arizona the Reservations are considered sovereign nations they still are subject to BLM, Forest Service, and EPA governance. In other words building casinos is okay, when it comes to mining, logging, or ranching their sovereign status is not so sovereign.

    how is it there is nary a red mark in Iowa? in NY, NJ, DE, CT, MA and ME? Even NE, KS, TX are bare. There is a straight shot from NYC through NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, MO, IA, NE, and KS and CO to the Rockies. They we are stopped cold.
    I’d love to see the all the lands currently red color coded to be recoded showing the year the Feds acquired those lands. Even better a color coded map of all previously held lands, color coded for year of acquisition, then recoded for year of release.

    Who cares who gets them, just get the land out of the hands of the Feds.

    • #29
    • August 2, 2017, at 5:29 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Full Size Tabby Member

    Among the things that have struck us since moving from California to Western New York State 17 years ago is how unaware New Yorkers (and we presume other East Coasters) are of what the effects are of having the federal government control large portions of the land in a state.

    • #30
    • August 2, 2017, at 5:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like