Our Public Lands

Fall 2014 015I grew up in Gunnison County Colorado where nearly every person is in some way tied to the public lands for a livelihood. I have heard off the cuff remarks from at least one errant soul saying that the feds should not hold our public lands and should sell them off.  I asked, “To whom would you want to see them sold?”  The man quickly said that maybe that was a way for him to buy some real land. I told him I thought that was purely doubtful, and that public lands will sell to the highest bidder, and with the monetary capacity of the folks at the top of the upside down economy this country is experiencing, he would never set foot on any of it.

There are large parcels of private lands near Gunnison and they are being gobbled up easily by big, big money. One piece I know of is 22,000 acres; it is fenced and locked. Another larger ranch that does allow a historically traveled public road through it now will not let anyone park on the road to access the public lands adjacent to it. Effectively they are cutting us off. There is another large property owner that pretty much has locked up all of Black Mesa that isn’t within the National Park. Do we really think that they will do any different to public lands they acquire?

Alaska Senator. Lisa Murkowski who sits on the Energy and National Resources committee is pushing right now, and in fact has a budget amendment for federal lands to be transferred, traded or sold to individual states. Here is a supporting article: https://www.hcn.org/articles/western-states-trying-to-take-back-federal-lands-get-a-boost-from-the-u-s-senate  To some degree, and in the real world it is almost a conflict of interest for her to have any role in this because she has the most to gain from selling the Alaska wildernesses to oil companies or private investors. If you don’t think she has pocket lining in mind you best read a little more about politics. She is on a mission for the corporations who likely as not are Chinese or Russian. The oil companies do pay some royalties to all of us, but also benefit from the biggest loopholes. Mining companies, thanks to Harry Reid pay something like 150.00 to lease and in some cases own claims on federal land, giving us nothing in royalties.

I think that ordinary people have to think long and hard on this one, and quick, as legislation is projected to begin this coming fall of 2015. People need to ask themselves why it is that legislators are pushing for this.  Especially in Alaska where a middle school kid could manage the budget due to never having a shortage of income from oil investment there.

My beef with the whole thing is once it is gone, it is gone, gone and we will never get it back, ever. This land they are desirous of, will be sold to people who will lock it up and we have had enough of that in the west already.  Where I am from in Colorado public access has been cut off to many public lands because the landowners simply close traditional access roads.  Imagine if they actually owned that same land, where would we be? Recreation and the small businesses that feed on the proximity to public land and the entire local economy would be gone?  Rafting companies, ranching, bicycling, equestrian sports, 4-wheeling, etc. would all be gone. All the businesses that support those sports would also be gone, like gas stations, grocery stores, sporting goods stores, motels and restaurants.

This legislation I suppose is leading up to “states rights”, which frankly I do not necessarily disagree with. BUT, until world politics is banned from individual states I will not support “states rights”. Right now our congressmen are bought and paid for by the larger interests of corporations and the parties themselves well outside of Colorado. I don’t want someone in Fla. telling us what to do in Colorado OR how to vote on OUR issues. States rights, if in fact we decided as a nation to allow that to morph from Federal control is OK I think, but not until our legislature is 100% in the control of our state with no outside influence. I do not see that happening anymore than blocking people from voting here instead of their hometowns.

The single most important issue other than the economies of the west is water quality.  A free-for-all on former public lands is not something anyone in their right mind would want. A large part of the west are headwaters and they need be protected above all else. As it is now, the federal government cannot sell the water, but were individual states to own and control it all at the state level it could be sold and used to maintain budgets at the very least, and then some pocket lining as a fringe benefit. We cannot allow our water to be polluted either and it can happen in a blink. There are thousands of old mines in Colorado, some corporate owned that were simply abandoned when the price of certain ores fell. The chemicals trapped in old dumps and ponds seep into our water and thus into our faucets, crop land or hay meadows. Do we want to go at more of that willy nilly by having private land owners mine their own land?

We better think this one over for a long time as luckily our Senators  Gardner and Bennet both are. They voted against the measure this time around, but as the pressure mounts, come time for a roll call, how will they vote?
Please write your Senators on this. Colorado Senators:  www.bennet.senate.gov/contact/

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