According to the (GAO) Governrenmt Accounting Office report-Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, released this February reveals the following: "The federal government owns and manages roughly 635-640 million acres of land. Four agencies manage 609 million acres of this land: in the Department of the Interior (DOI), the National Park Service (NPS) manages 80 million acres, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)manages 248 million acres, and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages 89 million acres(plus 217 million acres of marine refuges and monuments); and in the Department of Agriculture,the Forest Service (USFS) manages 193 million acres, Most of these lands are in the West,including Alaska. In addition, the Department of Defense administers 19 million acres in military bases, training ranges, and more. The remaining several million acres (estimated) are managed by a variety of government agencies. Ownership and use of federal lands have stirred controversy for decades. Conflicting public values concerning federal lands raise many questions and issues, including the extent to which thefederal government should own land; whether to focus resources on maintenance of existing infrastructure and lands or acquisition of new areas; how to balance use and protection; and how to ensure the security of international borders along the federal lands of multiple agencies.
Congress continues to examine these questions through legislative proposals, program oversight,and annual appropriations for the federal land management agencies " and yet it business as usual in D.C.Recently while reminiscing about some of my experiences on our nations public lands I could not help thinking about the way it was, how it is now, and what it will be like for those of us who enjoy the great American Outdoors and the opportunity to recreate upon those lands in a variety of ways. As you read this article, America is poised to set sail on a journey into the unknown, a new year where their are more questions than there are answers. Where unfounded and unproven optimism for the future rules over common sense and proven logic. Our current political administration and the hierarchy of it's leadership seems hell bent on giving away our homelands and the resources they possess to foreign interest and alien ideas which undermine the very nature and fabric of America. There has been no greater time in Americas history than the present, where our public lands as well as our private lands have been, are now, and will be threatened by internal and external force whose mission is to deprive, deny, and destroy the very greatness of Americas foundational truths and inalienable rights. It is difficult to convey in words adequately , the significance of the loss until it's gone. When common sense and truth are muddied and mistaken by the realty of deception and untruths. Our country is facing a crisis of unknown proportions by refusing to reign in unbridled spending while at the same time ceasing the practice of paying billions of dollars of the publics money on entitlement programs to and for 3rd world countries hostile to America. We can no longer afford to be the world's policeman when we cannot even insure and guarantee the health safety and welfare of our own citizens let alone protect and maintain and sustain our public lands. Responsibility and accountability are crucial to redirecting the path this country is currently travelling. This government must end the madness of arming our enemies with weapons which will be used against us while at the same time quietly attempting to disarm it's own citizens,both physically and emotionally.Our current administration must immediately close the gaping holes of security in the defined boundaries of our Republic. It must address and make clear and concise for all, as to who is and isn't entitled to be in this country. Yet regulatory and legislative entities of this country seem all to eager and anxious to implement and impose rules and laws which create economic hardships and eliminate and outlaw the very constitutional rights to occupy,inhabit, use and enjoy our lands,your lands, my lands our public lands. We have been to busy and caught up with the multitude of distractions which have become all to common in daily life to fully wrap our minds around the fact that America is standing in quicksand and we are sinking. While the Department of the Interior and it vast empire of federal land management agencies continue to mishandle and mismanage our public lands under the banner of public safety and in the best interests of the public,all to often it is at the expense of the public. State land management entities of our federation are not exempt from the above remarks and observations as well, and are, in some instances subservient and share complicity with the Federal government in its role to minimize and eliminate multiple use and access from our public lands. As well as to insure that the public receives a fair and just return on lands they manage Here are but a few of the game changers and eye openers the public has witnessed pertaining to it's public lands this yearRep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, has held a series of hearings this year on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) highlighting Congress’ need to review and update the act, which has not happened since its enactment 37 years ago. The ESA has had a less than two-percent success rate for species recovery, has imposed severe restrictions on ranchers on both public and private lands, and has been the cause of much litigation by radical environmentalists, costing taxpayers and landowners alike. Proposed Increased Funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) The president has proposed a $105 million increase to LWCF, totaling at $450 million. $258 million of that would go toward federal land acquisition.(Question-How in the face of reality can this happen when we are BROKE and are unable to maintain and sustain what already exist without adding more fuel to the fire!) Scoping Report for Sage Grouse Finalized Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (FS) released their Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Scoping Report ("Scoping Report"), a result of the first stage of public involvement in a planning effort to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act.(NOTE:- should these agencies be successful it will significantly impact recreational access and use on huge tracts of public lands in the west.) Wild lands Order Revived by "Guidance" In August, the Congressional Western Caucus brought to light what appears to be the administration’s revival of the congressionally blocked Wild lands Order, this time in the form two new BLM manuals (guidance) on managing lands with "wilderness characteristics". The two manuals, dated March 15th 2012, were recently discovered on the BLM website (6310 – Conducting Wildness Characteristics Inventory on BLM Lands and 6320 – Considering Lands with Wilderness Characteristics in the BLM Land Use Planning Process). It is unclear when the manuals were posted/made public. (Once again we see the intent of the present administration to disregard policy and attempt an end run around the public.......says a lot about the transparency Obama has promised) WHO KNOWS??While the U.S. government reaps billions of dollars in royalties each year from fossil fuels extracted from federal lands and waters, it does not collect any such royalties from gold, uranium or other metals mined from the same places, congressional auditors reported Wednesday. The federal government doesn't even know how much these so-called "hard rock" mines produce from federal public lands in the 12 western states where most of the mining occurs, the Government Accountability Office report found. And there is no federal law requiring the disclosure of production figures from individual mines. The non-competitive nature of the federal leasing program is being reviewed by the Interior Department’s inspector general and also will be the subject of an audit by the Government Accountability Office, according to officials at the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the leasing program.(NOTE: Isn't it time that provisions are established to help fund our public lands and amenities with a reasonable percentage of the wealth extracted by the private sector from our public lands?) On a positive note In October, four hikers, including two Ojai men, sued the U.S. Forest Service , challenging the agency's right to charge visitor fees at four Southern California national forests. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, follows similar efforts elsewhere in the country. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided in February with petitioners challenging the legality of fees at Mount Lemmon in Arizona. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act allows fees in "high-impact" recreation areas that have specific amenities available, including picnic tables, security services and developed parking. The Arizona lawsuit alleged the Forest Service went too far by charging those parking their cars just to picnic, hike or camp on undeveloped public land. The California suit follows a similar argument. (More to come)
In closing It is my wish this new year that your experiences outdoors are pleasant and safe and full of wonderful encounters and marvelous discoveries that await those who will reach out and walk the landscape of a new horizon.
Andy Johnson - NFMS-PLC AND ALAA Washington State Representative