"Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series on the importance of public lands to sportsmen and women. Read the next: "We are an Army."
By Corey Fisher
A debate over the disposal of federal public lands has been brewing in coffee shops and the halls of Congress. This dispute is not so much about any one specific place that is threatened: an ambiguous platform of divesting Federal lands puts each and every public land fishing hole and elk wallow at risk. Reduced to its most basic level, the debate is about two opposing ideologies. One believes that Federal government is mismanaging public lands and as such, those lands must be taken away. Meanwhile, other public land stakeholders believe that disposing of these lands is disposing of the birthright of all Americans.
While it may be easy to point fingers and try to wrestle control from a faceless bureaucracy that doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate local interests, it is shortsighted to do so. In 1905, the first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, penned a mission statement for the newly created agency, stating that "Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run."
Federal public lands are an enduring asset – a trust – for America’s citizens, to be managed in our best interest by a trustee, specifically a government by and for the people. Proper management isn’t about what is most advantageous for any one interest. Proper management is about what is best for the beneficiaries who own this trust. That means all of us. Selling America’s public lands heritage is not the “greatest good.” It’s selling out.
I’m not talking about thoughtful, effective programs like the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, through which proceeds from BLM land sales are used to purchase inholdings and land parcels with high habitat and recreational value. I’m talking about short-sighted proposals to sell public land for a quick buck in the name of deficit reduction.
Pressure to sell off public lands is nothing new and as long there are lands held in trust for all Americans, there will be those who desire and conspire to steal this wealth of the Nation. It is up to every hunter, angler, OHV user, hiker, camper, woodcutter, picnicker and birdwatcher to fight these efforts and make it crystal clear that our public lands legacy is not and never will be for sale.