Sarah Woodmansee: These lands are made for you and me
May 8, 2017
As a native born Coloradoan, I have lived to see my state evolve from a close knit crew of adventurers on the frontiers of skiing, hunting, rock climbing and hiking, to a loud clamorous cry for real estate development and industry, driven by a strong urge to create more money through taking.
Taking what, you may ask? By taking space, changing it, selling and trading it for profit. Colorado Springs, where I was born, rests upon the first principle of land ownership in Colorado: to mine it, sell it and live from the money it yields.
Land is finite. It is not imaginary. It is material. It exists before we are born; it exists after we are gone.Laws have defined it in terms of boundaries and ownership. These boundaries are drawn without regard to physical features that in many ways determine the activities contained within and upon them.
We can inherit it, buy it and sell it. We can lose the use of it through conquest, sale and legal maneuvers called "taking." Increasingly, more and more private land is consolidated and less of it is open and free of development. The federal and state governments manage much of our remaining open land, and these public lands are the remainder that all of us together can claim as our own.
Some in the Congress and in the administration are proposing to transfer "ownership and management" of much of this public land to the individual states in which they exist. This step would reduce the federal budget but would leave each state with financial responsibility for caring and managing the open land within its boundaries, which can not be done given most individual state's monetary restraints.
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Our state's economy depends on tourism, hunting, hiking and fishing on federal lands and federal land management. Financing these industries as a state alone would require an entire restructuring of our budget.
Artificial boundaries such as state lines interfere with the needs of open land in terms of fire mitigation, timber management, water projects and air quality, wildlife migration, grazing leases now in effect, which cross state lines and many other facets of open land management.
Let us remember that stewardship, ownership and use of this open, federal land resides with each of us as citizens and not just the residents of a certain locale. We live in Colorado and have ownership of forests, parks, monuments and open spaces all over the United States. Transferring ownership to individual states rescinds our ownership of those lands and deprives us of our national heritage.
The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, State Forests and the National Park Service are managers and owners of our public lands. Remember that we own these agencies, and through them, we own and are stewards of the land they manage for us.
Our Congress and our president determine what activities these agencies may do or refrain from doing for us as citizens. We influence the management of our public lands by commenting to these agencies, to our state representatives and the Congress and Senate.
It is time to take our ownership and stewardship of this public land seriously and participate in keeping and managing this federal land as truly our own.
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