In our discussion of where decisions are made with regard to public lands, there is a tension between those who feel that local concerns and interests should be preferred and those who feel that national concerns and interests should be preferred.
George Hoberg of University of British Columbia, argues here that nationalizing issues was and is a strategy of environmental groups (e.g., roadless today) – that the legalization and nationalization of issues have become paramount in US forest policy.
In Chapter Two of One Third of the Nation’s Land, there is a categorization of publics related to public land policies. The categories are:
1) “the national public: all citizens, as taxpayers, consumers, and ultimate owners of the public lands are concerned that the lands produce and remain productive of the material, social, and esthetic benefits that can be obtained from them.
2) the regional public: those who live and work on or near the vast public lands, while being a part of and sharing the concerns of the national public, have a special concern that the public lands help to support them and their neighbors and that the lands contribute to their overall well-being.
3) the Federal Government as sovereign: the ultimate responsibility of the Federal Government is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare and, in so doiig, it should make use of every tool at its command, including
its control of the public lands.
4) the Federal Government as proprietor: in a narrower sense, the Federal Government is a landowner that seeks to manage its property according to much the same set of principles as any other landowner and to exercise normal proprietary control over its land.
5) state and local government: most of the Federal lands fall within the jurisdiction limits of other levels of governments, which have responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of their constituents and, thus, an interest in assuring that
the overriding powers of the Federal Government be accommodated to their interests as viable instruments in our Federal system of government.
6) the users of public lands and resources: users, including those seeking economic gain and those seeking recreation or other noneconomic benefits, have an interest in assuring that their special needs, which vary widely, are met and
that all users are given equal consideration when uses are permitted.
The Commission in each of its decisions gave careful consideration to the interests of each of the several “publics” that make up the “general public.” to the best of its ability, reflect all of the interests of the general public.
We, therefore, recommend that: In making public land decisions, the Federal Government should take into consideration
the interests of the national public, the regional public, the Federal Government as the sovereign, the Federal proprietor, the users of public lands and resources, and the state and local governmental entities within which the lands are located in order to assure, to the extent possible, that the maximum benefit for the general public is achieved.”
It is worth reading the whole discussion in Chapter Two found here. It is certainly a more nuanced view than the idea that each person in the US has equal say over what happens on public lands. In this light, place-based legislation can, perhaps, be seen as an attempt to rebalance the power that has shifted to the courts and to national groups.