Jim Hicks: Public land heritage threatened | SteamboatToday.com

Jim Hicks: Public land heritage threatened

The anti-federal land legislators — 20 legislators from western states mostly, supported by Scott Tipton —  argue that states would be better at managing federal lands then the federal land management agencies. The anti-federal land legislators are launching an ideological attack on government authority that protects and preserves land, water and wildlife.

The Colorado State Land Board is the agency that would inherit this federal land. The Colorado State Land Board is a land rental and land sales agency whose mandate is to produce money for education. While this may be a source of income for education, it does not protect state lands from mismanagement.

A local example of mismanagement by the State Land Board is 20 Mile Park, south of Milner. The State Land Board allowed a lessee to plow up the sagebrush of the largest concentration of sage grouse in Routt County. This destroyed the entire sage grouse population, and they have never returned. The leasee planted wheat and found out the soil was wrong for growing wheat, but the damage was done.

A vast majority of citizens have a favorable view of the federal land use agencies. I have worked with these federal agencies for 50 years, and I can assure you that they do an excellent job of managing federal land. They are dedicated, experienced land managers. They are mandated by law to involve the public in management decisions. Public comment and input is not part of the State Land Boards process.

The funds needed to manage transferred land to state ownership would require the state to increase dramatically grazing and rental fees, and sell land to developers. Colorado would have to create a land management agency.

The expense in hiring experienced personnel and fighting fires would be tremendous. Most Coloradans believe that public land adds greatly to our economy and oppose the transfer of federal lands to the state.

Scott Tipton and the other anti-public land legislators passed Rule 233-190 that requires that land transfers to states must not take into account the value of public lands or their revenue potential. The new rule 233-190 eliminates the inherent value of the land and allows states to buy federal lands at next to nothing and ultimately resell them to developers.

When you vote this fall remember which candidate would allow the devalued sale of public land to the states. This rule could destroy our public land heritage that is the envy of the world.

Jim Hicks

Steamboat Springs

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