Natelson – Zinke’s Departure a Chance to Divest Federal Lands
Former University of Montana law professor and current Constitutional Fellow at the Independence Institute, Rob Natelson, is now a contributing columnist for the Daily Caller.
Natelson took the opportunity after the announcement by President Donald Trump that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would be stepping down at the end of the year to suggest a replacement that would encourage the U.S. Government to begin divesting itself of millions of acres of public land.
“I don’t have a lot of quarrels with Mr. Zinke over how he ran the Interior Department, but one thing he did that I think was unfortunate was that he ruled out any disposition out of federal control of excessive federal land holdings,” said Natelson. “We do own far too much public land. The Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to just own land for any reason it wants.”
Natelson provided examples of how the federal government could easily divest itself of large swaths of public land.
“There’s a lot of federal land, particularly owned by the BLM that is just for grazing or mining,” he said. “That property could easily be disposed of and the proceeds used to reduce the federal deficit. What people get upset about is if they think the federal government is going to destroy the national parks or compromise land with environmental value.”
Natelson said there are steps to make sure those lands are preserved.
“National recreation areas can be managed by the states as well, or better than they’re being managed by the federal government,” he said. “In Great Britain where I’ve spent a great deal of time, they have a system whereby valuable lands are put into perpetual trusts, and those trusts are separate from the government, so they’re not buffeted by the kind of politics that can lead to wildfires and conflicts over wolves, and so forth,” he said. “Getting rid of excessive land holdings doesn’t mean that we’re going to be selling land with environmental value, such as national parks, to the highest bidder,” he said.
“There’s a very unscrupulous public land lobby, and every time there’s a suggestion that we could manage valuable lands better, outside of federal control, they start sending propaganda to their donors and the general public that we’re going to be putting up McDonalds in Yellowstone National Park,” he said. “I’m simply talking about reducing the power of the federal government by having it get out of the business of managing ordinary lands such as grazing lands. So, the next time you hear people shrieking about how we’re going to be putting up condos in Glacier National Park, beware that they’re not telling you the truth.”