Elk NetworkRMEF maintains its stance that it is vital we keep public lands in public hands

Conservation | December 20, 2017

RMEF maintains its stance that it is vital we keep public lands in public hands despite what a professor from Johns Hopkins University keeps preaching. Read David Allen’s letter below:December 20, 2017
Professor Steve H. Hanke
John Hopkins University
Ames Room 209
Baltimore, MD  21218

Professor Hanke,

Here we go again. For the second time in five months you are banging the drum in favor of selling off public lands. And you aren’t talking about transferring them to the states (which is bad enough) but selling them outright to private parties! Yes, I know you are only talking about the lands we don’t need or use (or so you say).

In your latest editorial in Forbes, Follow the Founders and Privatize Public Lands, you make an interesting claim: that the Founders of our country actually wanted our lands to be privately held. I find this claim curious when one considers how purposeful our Founders were toward setting a framework for this country and yet they did not specifically stipulate such a structure in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence.

Let’s take George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as two examples. Washington was a land surveyor, he certainly understood the values of land yet I find no specific point by him that government-held lands be sold or conveyed to private ownership. Jefferson ironically is credited with the Louisiana Purchase, which began the ownership of much of the western American lands that we now debate. Jefferson did not designate in this land purchase that “these lands shall become private.”

Your recent op-ed exempts lands like national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, national memorials, and scenic rivers all from the notion of sale or transfer however you ignore the lands at the heart of the debate, which makes one wonder how much you truly understand this issue. The public lands under the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are the heart and soul of public land recreation including camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, grazing and so forth. These lands, Mr. Hanke, are the vast majority of the American treasure; the lands we are fighting to keep and protect. You ignore naming these lands in your editorial but in the past you have suggested these lands be sold to pay our national debt; a proposition that would be laughable except that its consequences are dire!

Your editorial explains how you found a study that shows a piece of timberland in Oregon would have great value if it were sold to a private entity. No kidding? But for whom? That isn’t a hard argument to make but you still ignore what’s at stake. There are two key issues here: public land use and management of these lands. I won’t go into the management aspect now; we will be here for days.

We aren’t saying management of our federal lands is perfect. It certainly is not. The RMEF maintains there is a strong need to fix the wildfire funding dilemma, cut back litigation that thwarts active management of our forests and let’s demand specific public land management objectives and results.  

Simply put, privatizing our public lands would destroy the greatest wildlife system in the world. You want to fix the national debt? Make our federal government operate as the states do, with a balanced budget every year. Public lands are not the problem and they are not the answer to our national debt. Leave them alone and address the real problems. You totally underestimate the tsunami you would create by the American people.


David Allen

RMEF President & CEO