Transfers of Federal Land to States

From E&E News today….

Former Interior chief Norton faults state bids for federal tracts

5 Comments

  1. I want to comment to two of Gale Norton’s comments. The first has to do with “… people across the country need to be assured that states can responsibly manage federal lands,” The other, which I will save for another time, has to do with the 1998 Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act..

    Much of the forest lands in Federal jurisdiction are in the West. Three of the four states that I follow have shown exemplary leadership and progress in the area of public forest management. These states include Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Idaho has gone so far as to experiment with various forms of institutional arrangements for the husbandry of forest values in that state.. While I am not aware of any comparative audit of ‘land health’ under the various institutional arrangements in these three states and that of the USDA-Forest Service, my own observations of the husbandry of forest values in Region 6 suggest the USDA-Forest Service’s efforts and results are far inferior to those of the states.

    With that said, I still can not support the wholesale transfer of Federal forest lands to the states. Before the transfer begins, I suggest that the USDA-FS under the guidance of the Executive Branch look to the states for progressive responses to the needs of modern forest management and start to develop experiments at a larger scale than the approaches showing promise in the states.

    • Once those who are interested in the management of public lands managed by federal agencies can agree on the values that should be pursued/emphasized, the conversation about transferring these public lands to states will become more meaningful. States manage their lands with a more narrow focus. However, to assume that “modern forest management” will lend itself to be sufficient in the husbandry of forest values leaves a lot of questions to be answered: What is “modern forest management”? Which forest values? How does husbandry allow us to realize our desired conditions of the forested landscapes, grasslands, and prairies? Which desired conditions? Active or passive management? And where do the states plan to get the funds necessary to accomplish all this management and husbandry?

      That’s a lot of loose ends to tie up before making a credible proposal to transfer lands.

    • Actually, Bill,
      The time for giving “federal” oversight a chance to “work” is long gone. 20 years of paralysis has the meter ticking faster and faster.
      States getting lands on a sustained-yield net-present-value base, and hiring interested Feds (not the parkies) who want to spend the rest of their careers on a forest or tract, under involved rational local and state government oversight, is far more attractive than waiting for CONGRESS to dither and pander. Example — Defense bill cramnibus.

  2. Interesting comments. I believe that most observers feel the states are doing a far better job of management (making the land useful to society) than the feds. It’s certainly true here in Florida. If we delay action till the questions of values (which is “better” a dozen oranges, the color mauve or a C minor chord?) is settled nothing will ever be accomplished. Currently feds try to be all things to all men with the Congress making the process even more unworkable .

    Select a featured use based on the land and its attributes, allow compatible uses and manage.

  3. WV – I appreciate your “all things to all men” comment. It certainly appears that the federal agencies are the victims of a dispersed approach in providing useful services to society…and that’s the biggest difference between how states and federal agencies manage their respective public lands. Using your hypothetical list of values, it would certainly be a lot easier to manage land if the focus was ONLY “a dozen oranges.” If the federal agencies had the opportunity to be as focused in their management as states, I would argue that the differences would be much less, and the conversation of transferring land from federal to state ownership/management would be unnecessary.

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