Conservation, business leaders speak out for public lands

Judith Kohler, Aug. 25, 2014

Photo by Steve Torbit

ur birthright and priceless heritage. Points of pride for all Americans. Integral to our country’s rich biological and wildlife diversity. Powerful, sustainable economic engines.

Those are just a few of the descriptions of our public lands by the participants in a recent National Wildlife Federation news conference. The subject was the assault on public lands by members of Congress and some state legislators who say it would be better if the states managed the lands or if they were disposed of, presumably sold to the highest bidders.

This message has to get out to all Americans all across the country because it our birthright which is in jeopardy today with some of the initiatives we are hearing about to take over the public lands and transfer them over to the states and over to private ownership,” former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.  “The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of each and every one of us Americans. They do not belong to one state.”

Westerners have heard the cries of the Sagebrush rebels off and on during the last few decades. You can count on politicians in some of the states with large federally managed expanses to make noise about chafing under the heavy yoke of federal control.

 It might be tempting to write off this latest uprising as one more chapter of a seemingly never-ending saga, but that wouldn’t be wise. 


The multifaceted value of our public lands

Frank Sturges, Aug. 19, 2014

Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Source: flickr, thronps

The over 640 million acres of federal public land benefit wildlife, recreation enthusiasts, and local residents every single day. They provide wildlife habitat, drinking water, and opportunities to challenge ourselves in the outdoors.
Despite these many values, some state legislatures and members of Congress think that public lands are little more than a real estate deal they can hastily undertake to cash a one-time check. As the owners of the public lands that continue to provide value every year, we have to stand up against attacks on our public lands that would hand them over to private interests.

NWF joins sportsmen, conservation and business leaders to defend public lands

Photo by John Gale

By Judith Kohler

BOULDER, Colo.  – Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.


Thu, 08/14/2014

Congress Fails to Act on Wildfires

Frank Sturges, photo USDA

Last Friday, Congress kicked off their five-week summer recess, but not before refusing to approve emergency funds for wildfire suppression. Over 30 large fires are currently blazing across the American West, including the 4,700-acre El Portal Fire in Yosemite National Park, which has already cost over $9 million, and the over 250,000-acre Carlton Complex in Central Washington, the largest in that state's history. Thousands of wildland firefighters are deployed to stop the spread of these wildfires from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, and state agencies like Cal Fire.

While the number of acres burning continues to grow, the cost of this summer's fire season is also on the rise. In May, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service projected a $470 million budget shortfall, and the administration requested an emergency budget supplemental that would have included $615 million plug that gap in paying for fire costs this year.

However, neither chamber of Congress acted to fund wildfires before heading out of town -- leaving the question of how the Forest Service and Interior will pay for this ongoing work. They will most likely turn to "fire borrowing," or taking money from other agency priorities to pay for wildfire. A report from the Forest Service earlier this summer explains the impact this practice has on cancelling and delaying necessary forest management programs across the country.