RMEF Letter on Public Land Transfer

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Here’s a link to the press release:

Here’s the link to the letter:

Below is the letter:

Dear Senator XXX:

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has a growing concern over the continual proposals and rhetoric regarding the wholesale disposal, transfer, or sale of federal land holdings. The notion of transferring ownership of lands currently overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or any other federal land manager to states or worse yet to private interests, is not a solution to federal land management issues and we are opposed to this idea.

Federal land management policies and actions are of great importance to our 203,000 members. Federal public lands are vitally important habitat for elk and many other species of wildlife. They are also where we hunt, camp, hike, and in some cases, make our living. Transferring public lands to states to manage will not work for two primary reasons. First, states are not equipped or prepared to manage these additional lands. Second, transferring ownership of public lands does not address the real issues.

Calls for transfers of federal land are rooted in disappointment and disgust with the lack of balanced use and management of these lands today. Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the multiple use approach for the benefit of the most people and wildlife to a preservationist agenda advocated by small radical groups. Actively managed lands benefit people and wildlife, and in a specific case, reduce the impacts of wildfire, a national crisis at this time.

We urge you, as a leading member of Congress, to not only stand up for the ongoing federal ownership of land, but just as important, stand up for the implementation of sound, active federal land management. Enact legislation that creates specific strategic goals for the Departments of Agriculture and Interior on what is expected in terms of stewardship and active management of our public lands.

8 Comments

  1. Hmm…I didn’t realize that “wildfire is a national crisis at this time.”

    Also didn’t realize that “Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the multiple use approach for the benefit of the most people and wildlife to a preservationist agenda advocated by small radical groups.”

    Sure would be nice to get specifics from RMEF. What are their examples of this supposed shift? And who are these “small radical groups?” I mean, during the past two years was the first time since 1964 that a session of Congress passed 0 acres of new Wilderness. Yep, that’s quite a “shift to a preservationist agenda.” And there are hundreds of scientific studies showing that the “multiple use approach” (i.e. roadbuilding, logging, grazing, mining, etc) hasn’t been all that great for wildlife.

    But, I guess when you’re run by a guy (David Allen) who made a living representing dudes driving 180 mph around in a circle, this is as specific as you get.

    As a backcountry public lands elk hunter that fills my freezer every fall with wild game, I say “Whatever David Allen.” I seriously doubt David Allen could even manage to see elk on public lands if he wasn’t part of some fancy pants, $5000 a week outfitted camp. I know for certain he couldn’t keep up with us in the backcountry.

  2. I am a Sustaining Member of RMEF and have been a member for more than 20 years. While I certainly agree with REMF’s position on not transferring public lands to state or private holdings, we do have a serious problem with the current management, or lack thereof, of our federal lands here in the west. I have discussed land management issues with a number of USFS as well as BLM land managers at the District and “Forest” level and they will openly admit that their management strategy has become focused primarily on litigation avoidance, with the lawsuits coming primarily from agendas advocated by small radical groups. Federal agencies are required to spend months, sometimes years analyzing a plethora of required ecological topics, submitting literally thousands of pages for public scrutiny, and then going through modifications or withdrawals of reasonable management plans primarily to avoid litigation. Preservationist groups love to tie up proposed actions with litigation or threats thereof, and use the Equal Access to Justice Act passed by Congress to pay lawyers with public funds for their actions. The result, not much is getting done in the field and a huge drain of financial resources for the agencies.

    The real issue is we cannot “preserve” forests or grasslands in a static state. Before human intervention natural lightning set fire to combustable forest/grassland material, and the resulting fires burned for the most part at low intensity because fire was a routine part of the natural ecology. Those fires burned until they either ran out of sufficient fuel to continue the combustion process, or fuels got wet from precipitation. Those fire pretty much controlled the underbrush and smaller trees that today result in catastrophic fire damage due to the heavy fuel loads that have been allowed to build over time as a result of active fire suppression. As a result, much of the forests and grasslands we have today are not adequately managed to provide vitally important habitat for elk and many other species of wildlife.

    It is time for Congress to address the problem and allow our professionally trained federal land managers (and no, while I have a Forestry degree I have never worked for the federal or state government) to have the latitude necessary to replicate natural conditions before human intervention eliminated natural fire on our lands. I applaud REMF’s commentary in this letter.

    Meanwhile photosynthesis continues daily continuing to build the fuel load for the next catastrophic fire……

  3. Wes, good letter except I’m going to have to jump down your throat about “natural lightning set fire.” The Indians burnt EVERYTHING that made sense. For forage, to clear ambush foliage, to tick off enemies, even to reset the fire clock on the way through an area that looked ripe.
    Indians had a really good handle on the beneficial use of fire.

    • I certainly agree with your comments regarding the actions of Indians, Dave. So think through what North American forests/grasslands were like even before Indians inhabited these lands. And think through what happened in areas were Indians did not inhabit lands. My perception is that natural lightning ignited fires every year throughout these lands and again they burned until the fuel load could not sustain the fire or the fuels got wet. And I believe lightning caused fires occurred frequently while lands were occupied by Indians. Indians certainly had a good handle on the beneficial use of fire and they obviously supplemented natural fire’s role in cleansing these lands of excessive fuels. I believe the problem we have today is that the decendents of European settlers (us) have created an unnatural fuel load condition through active fire suppression, regardless of the “cause” of the fires, and yes I have been a part of the issue because I was on literally hundreds of firelines over my lifetime. It is time to recognize the problem we have created, and let the professional land managers come up with solutions to minimize the risk of catastrophic fire events.

  4. As with most professional organizations, the Society of American Foresters has a Code of Ethics. In part, the preamble mentions Gifford Pinchot’s “utilitarianism” and Aldo Leopold’s “ecological conscience”. [Pinchot was the founder of the national forests (along with Pres. Teddy Roosevelt), its first Chief, and the founder of the SAF. Leopold is highly revered by the environmental community for his “land ethic”.]

    Some see the reference to both Pinchot and Leopold in the Code’s Preamble as a contradiction. Not at all. Gifford’s reference to “utilitarianism” acknowledges the basic fact that all life requires the extraction and use of natural resources – this includes EVERY person on this planet. Leopold states that natural resources must be used but in a way that sustains the natural environment.

    I can not emphasize enough – ALL life requires the extraction and use of natural resources. Natural resources MUST be used but used in such a manner that both the resources and the life they support can be sustained for the long run.

    Pinchot, in founding the national forests, said those lands must be managed, “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run.” My question is, today, are those lands being managed to meet those objectives?

    I am not a fan of turning federal forest lands over to the states and, especially, to private interests; instead, they should serve the American citizen. That said, I am really NOT a fan of current federal forest management! Are lands set aside for wilderness, municipal watersheds, huge riparian areas, endangered species, and so forth meeting Pinchot’s “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run?” Or, are they used for some very narrow, specific purpose?

    A writer (above) mentions that these past two years were the first since the Wilderness Act of 1964 that zero acres were added to the wilderness system. Gosh, didn’t the analysis process in 1964 identify ALL those lands meeting wilderness criteria and include them in 1964? Apparently not since RARE I and, later, RARE II found lands not originally deemed worthy of wilderness status had become wilderness and added them to the wilderness system. Further, until the past two years, people keep finding more lands to add. But, again, I must ask, are those lands “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run” or are they used for more narrowly defined purposes?

    Yes, I like some wilderness and feel it is an important use for really special lands. But, I find it hard to believe lands that were homesteaded with roads, apple orchards, and conifer plantations are “wilderness”. I find other so-called wilderness lands with man-made dams or former cotton plantations is a real stretch of what “wilderness” means.

    I can only surmise there is a shift led by small groups for more wilderness additions. Large, mainstream groups who’d advocate “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run” are probably not among those groups.

    Lands managed for elk habitat, water, recreation, and wood (among other uses) for people are pretty close to Pinchot and Roosevelt’s original intention for national forests. Unfortunately, the morass of litigation, endless study, etc. does not allow for the management of these lands so beetles, fire, drought, etc. manage the lands instead. [Maybe having the states take over management of federal lands is an idea whose time has come.]

    • Pinchot was a powerful figure, and accomplished many beneficial things for American forests. He also was a product of his times and his utilitarian viewpoint largely reflected the lack of ecological sophistication pervasive in that era (maybe that hasn’t changed all that much). “The first great fact about conservation is that it stands for development” is perhaps his most enduring quote. The conflicting ideas of Pinchot and John Muir still inform much of wildlands management and policy, but our perspective is hopefully somewhat evolved, more than a century later: “for the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run” has ecological implications that Giffor Pinchot might not easily recognize, and to the extent that this country’s (and the world’s) forests and rangelands are in rough shape today, it’s clearly unrestrained utilitarianism rather than “preservation” that got them that way. The idea that making federal agencies follow the law and their own policies (=litigation) and “endless study” (do we already know enough? too much?) are somehow impeding optimum management and policy for natural resources is a strange one. In what other area of human endeavor do ignoring the law and “studying less” constitute a recipe for success?

      • I choose to follow the reality that some litigious eco-groups cast aside actual science, in favor of a political agenda of “whatever happens”. Certainly, today, John Muir would bristle at the ideas of letting forests burn, losing endangered species habitats and the desire to abolish forestry, in our National Forests. Muir only became a preservationist when seeing rampant clearcutting and “overstory removal”, in the Forest Service. He would have been for reducing tree densities, restoring species compositions and making forests more resilient to drought, bark beetles and wildfires. He also wouldn’t be clamoring for “bigger and more intense wildfires”, as some people would like you to think.

  5. I “thought through” what these lands were like before Indians, Indigenous People, First Nations, pre 1492 aboriginals, and their fire regimes: Ice, glaciers, perpetual snow fields, and mostly snow free rain shadow valleys that allowed for human and native species migrations, and fire maintained prairies, meadows, fens, brakes, swamps, what have you. There was still summer and winter, and the sun shone, albeit on a different landscape and reflective surface. The oceans were 300 feet shallower. The land lower, compressed by great glaciers and their weight. Yet humans thrived and survived, all assisted by their burning, their setting of fires to maintain a favorable environment for survival. And some probably perished due to mistakes, and those who survived learned from the mistakes. I don’t think burning the landscape was as cavalier an undertaking as some would maintain.

    The Ice Age ended (shudder–global climate change and warming!), and forests migrated north and up slope, and Indians were there to shape the vegetative landscape with set fire. They also moved north with the retreating ice and snow, burning as they went. Some just adjusted their adaptation to snow and ice, and some moved north to stay in the snow and ice along the seas and oceans.

    The land evolved hand in hand with the resident peoples, who were here before the ice retreated and the forests took over the newly exposed soils. They have survived here for tens of thousands of years, and much of that survival was due to understanding that if they didn’t burn, the mega fauna had not feed enough to be numerous enough to provide for the native burners. Cause and effect. Linear thinking. Practical experience. And no NEPA process, the poor dears. How could they have survived and the same with species they needed to live?

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