Monday, March 19, 2012

Anti Public Land Views: This Song is for You

I just finished The Big Burn by Timothy Egan. The book centers around the massive wild fires that swept through northeastern Washington, northern Idaho and northwest Montana in 1910. These fires took place after Theodore Roosevelt ably assisted by Gifford Pinchot had set aside much of the forests in northeast Washington, northern Idaho and northwest Montana as National Forests. Egan also takes the view that the fires saved the National Forest system. Prior to the fire there was intense opposition to National Forests in congress. Congress had previously passed a bill that prevented the President from creating new National Forests. Roosevelt then proceeded to set aside millions of acres of National Forest in the days before the legislation took effect.

At issue was a significant group of congressmen opposed to public lands. The opposition to public land There has been a slow creeping mindset developing in a subset within the Republican Party opposing public lands. This view has been mostly heard in small local pockets. It showed up a bit in my local area in regards to a proposal by a couple of local county councils requesting that small areas of Bureau of Land Management Land be included in a National Conservation Area designation in part to end the risk of the BLM selling the land.

This anti public land ownership view has been for the most part a small minority and it has been my experience that it is not a universal view of members of the Republican Party. However, it appears that those views are creeping upward such that anti public land ownership is being held by some very prominent members of the Republican Party.

Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum recent expressed opinions about our public lands that demonstrate this anti public land sentiment has crept upward to the highest levels of the Grand Old Party. Timothy Egan responded

In many parts of the west there certainly has been intense debate regarding management of public lands that has bordered on frustration that might in part explain this shift in thinking about public ownership - You don't get what you want from public land so you begin advocating selling or giving the land away. There is also the local control aspect. Local people want the land used as they sit fit and that does not necessarily align with the broader national public policies.

In Washington State debates on public land management are important because we have so much public land. But think about this: Over 600,000 acres of public forest land in Washington State was once in private ownership. 531,000 of those acres were acquired after the private land owners removed all the timber and simply walked away and stopped paying taxes.

This cut and run approach to private forest lands was very predictable. Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt had already seen it happen in Mr. Romney's home state of Michigan and Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. It was this pillaging of resources that led to setting aside National Forests and National Wildlife Areas.

And for all the anti public land types This song is for you:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is truly my favorite blog.
thanks, Dan.