Alternatives to the Transfer of Public Lands Act
Stegner Center White Paper No. 2016-01
18 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2016 Last revised: 8 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 1, 2016
This White Paper is the fourth in a series addressing state efforts to take over federally managed public lands. We argue here that state time and resources would be better spent on collaborative efforts to improve resource management practices. Alternatives to litigation, like that threatened under Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, are important because, as our prior work shows, Utah’s claims are likely to fail. The federal government is not obligated to dispose of additional public lands, and even if a disposal obligation were found to exist, such an obligation would not necessitate giving the land to the states. Furthermore, a state takeover of public lands would subject states to significant fiscal risk while likely reducing opportunities for public involvement in land management decisions. Faced with the prospect of a long, costly, and likely fruitless legal fight, states should consider other responses to what are, for many, sincerely held frustrations over the condition and management of our public lands.
This paper discusses five of the main problems that we believe give rise to the frustration driving the public lands transfer movement. We then present seven possible alternatives to demanding title to federal lands that we believe respond to these problems and that are likely to produce lasting and tangible land management improvements. Neither the list of problems, nor the list of alternatives, is exhaustive. While we identify what we see as key challenges and opportunities, others will undoubtedly add to our list. We hope that a productive dialogue over public land management policies and practices can grow from this effort.
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