“Common sense will nearly always stand you in better stead than a slavish adherence to the conventions.”
~M.M. Kaye, Shadow of the Moon
Another pending bill, H.R. 622, would remove any law enforcement capacity of the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service on our public lands and leave it solely in the hands of local law enforcement. I believe this is a terrible idea for a number of reasons.
First, this could very well result in more poaching and lawlessness on our public lands. The simple fact of the matter is that local law enforcement does not have the resources to monitor, manage and protect our public lands, let alone the knowledge of all the federal laws in place that are meant to protect our public resources. That is not really their area of focus.
Appropriations to the states from the federal government could alleviate some of the concern because the states would then have more resources to manage these lands, but to me, there is more to it than this.
The bottom line is that when dealing with public lands, there are competing interests. On the one hand is the public’s interests to protect and use public land and on the other is the local populations’ interest in using this land for their own commercial purposes. Don’t misunderstand me, I am for multiple use of public lands as long as they are managed for sustainability and access to the public. However, when we say “public” we mean that everyone in the nation has an interest in these lands, not just Idahoans in Idaho, Utahns in Utah, etc. As an Idahoan, I can’t expect the local or state governments of Montana to look out for my interest in public land in Montana. Their representatives don’t represent me. And its the same for Montanans (or citizens of other states) on Idaho public land. The federal government on the other hand represents (or should represent) the public in this process and can look out for the good of the public.
This morning, I got an email from Mike Simpson, my congressman, on this issue and I liked what he had to say: “[A]s a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for federal land management agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, I am constantly encouraging these agencies to work with state and local officials and private individuals when making land management decisions in Idaho. I strongly believe that Idahoans should have a say in how the land on which they work and live is managed, and I will continue to advocate for a strong partnership between federal, state, and local land management agencies.” This approach makes the most sense to me because it takes into account everyone’s interests. I have no problem with States having a say in the process. However, I don’t think it is in the public’s interest for the Federal government to be cut out of the picture altogether. There is a balancing act that has to be done here.
This should not be a matter of party politics, but of simple common sense. I see no reason why the federal, state and local agencies cannot work together to make sure the law is enforced on our public lands and to allow multiple and sustainable use. Please write your congressman and tell him to vote no on HR 622.