September 2014
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Privatizing public lands would make no sense

By Galen Larson

There seems to be a movement afoot lately to turn control of our public lands over to states and counties, with the idea that this would somehow give greater freedom in the way those lands are managed. Don’t these people realize that if we hadn’t set aside the tracts of mountain and forest, desert and lake, that make up our national parks, national forests, and BLM lands, all of these places would be owned by corporations or private monied persons that would charge steep amounts for access (if they granted any)?

Yet there are people who say there should be no federal public land, it should all be either privately owned or owned by the states and counties. I guess that way we wouldn’t have to maintain these areas and their roads and pay those nasty forest rangers. I for one am grateful that we can enjoy Yellowstone Park, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, the San Juan National Forest, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Hovenweep, and more.

Ask the Texans why they come up here to hunt. They have plenty of deer down there, but no place to hunt them. Let me relate an experience I had in Texas years ago. A colleague I knew lived in Houston. I dropped in for a visit and he insisted I go goose-hunting with him, as he belonged to a hunting club that leased a portion of private land for hunting purposes. My friend paid $250 a year in membership (and this was quite some time ago – I’m sure it would be much more now).

First, he had to call the chairman of the board and request permission to bring a guest (me). I paid $50 for one day of shooting, over and above the license, then there was a fee of $10 a bird.

It was a fun day – a lot of camaraderie, whiskey, and conversation. We hid in blinds with trapdoors sunk into the marsh, provided with padded seats and hot coffee. It was not exactly the hunting I did as a youngster in Minnesota, where I would go to public lands and crawl on my belly in mud and cattails to get a shot.

But the idea of being so restricted put a damper on the outing. I got one goose and I’m not sure what I even did with it. I never repeated that experience.

There are a lot of other, larger ranches privately owned in Texas where for an exorbitant price one can even kill a zebra, wildebeest, or other rare animal. But I don’t consider it hunting, just shooting fish in a barrel. That’s what happens when you give up public lands.

We ought to be proud to have and support all these acres of national forest that surround us. It’s one of the reasons many people move here. It befuddles me when all the supposed patriots waving Chinese-made American flags say they love this country, yet recoil in horror when asked to support it through the paying of taxes. They like to mention the preamble of the Constitution and the phrase, “We the People.” Well, we the people purchased these lands from various foreign regimes – the Louisiana Purchase, Seward’s folly and more – and we did it to further our nation, not for the benefit of private corporations and billionaires.

What do people think would happen if we gave our national forests and BLM lands over to the state? Why, it would sell them off as fast as possible to balance its budget. Then where would we gather firewood, ride ATVs, go for hikes and picnics, and hunt deer? Guess we’d have to join a private club like my friend in Texas. Yeah, that would sure save us some money.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.


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