Federal Lands Transfer Efforts Would Impact Access

By Colleen Hartel

Scenic Image Credit: Bob Wick, BLM

Recent efforts across the western U.S. have focused on the potential sale and transfer of federal lands to state governments and private entities.

In 2012, the Utah state legislature passed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” mandating that 31 million acres of federal land be transferred to the state by December 31, 2014. While the only federal government holds authority to transfer ownership of lands to the states, the action spurred groups in other western states to propose similar measures.

Federal-level legislation has also been introduced that would result in the sale of federal public lands. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposed a provision to the 2014 Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act when it was in front of the 113th Congress that would mandate the sale of tens of millions of acres of federal public lands in western states.

States may not have the capacity necessary to manage federal lands, however. For example, wildfire management on federal public lands cost over $1.7 billion in 2013 alone. Complete transfer of ownership of all federal public lands would cost states an estimated additional hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The push towards sale of federal lands has gained attention from sportsmen’s and recreational groups on a statewide and national level due to the impact federal land transfers would have on public access to these lands for recreation including hunting and fishing, key components of the United States’ $646 billion recreation industry.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership developed SportsmensAccess.org which has resources for individuals and organizations concerned with how federal land transfers would limit public access.

Source: Sportsmen’s Access Public Lands Fact Sheet

Colleen Hartel is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

Read more of Colleen's articles.