Guest column by Buzz Hettick
Rep. Cynthia Lummis recently reported that she is supporting the newly established Federal Land Action Group. This group, led by Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart of Utah, will review legislation forcing the transfer of federal lands to state ownership. Other supporters have little or no interest in the West and include Reps. Diane Black from Tennessee and Jeff Duncan from South Carolina.
This shows how out of touch Rep. Lummis is with her Wyoming constituents. In a recent poll from across the West over 70 percent of those responding opposed the transfer of federal public lands to states. Furthermore, 100-plus sportsmen’s and conservation groups are adamantly opposed to the transfer of public lands, including nearly all Wyoming-based groups.
This is hardly surprising, since most Western states have treated their state lands more like a real-estate business than as responsible stewards. The state of Wyoming already has sold 700,000 acres of the 4.2 million it was granted at statehood. Utah has peddled 3.8 million acres of state land there; as a result, 1 in every 3 acres of private land in Utah once was owned by the state. The same is true in Nevada, Colorado and elsewhere.
Further, the costs of a public lands transfer would heavily tax state budgets. The costs of road maintenance, firefighting and administration of those lands would bankrupt Wyoming. Despite the evidence, Lummis still chose to support this ridiculously poor idea.
This flies in the face of the actual facts. Hunting and fishing is a $1.1 billion annual industry in Wyoming. Factor in other tourism-based recreation on federal lands, and it balloons to $1.7 billion per year. Countless local communities and businesses rely on the recreational opportunities found on public lands to support all or a large portion of their businesses.
Let Rep. Lummis know she has an obligation to her Wyoming constituents, not an obligation to an action group with supporting members from Utah, Nevada, South Carolina and Tennessee. Tell her that your birthright and legacy of public lands is not to be squandered by the ridiculous idea of transferring public lands to the states.
— Buzz Hettick of Laramie, Wyoming, is chairman of Wyoming Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
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