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WHO ACTUALLY OWNS THE WEST?

By Jeff Knoll for Off Road Press.

The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (HR1581), the Apple Act (HR2852) and the 29 Palms Marine Base expansion all share a similar struggle. Proponents of these bills (or in the case of opposition of the base expansion) should consider an overall strategic plan for a combined effort for education of congressional members east of the Rockies in an effort to further our agenda of OHV access opportunities.

First, let’s consider this statement made by Congressman Ron Bishop regarding the Apple Act.

“Many Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers fail to recognize the unique challenges western states face due to the fact that they consist of millions of acres of un-taxable federal land. Funding education is one of those challenges. More than 50% of the state of Utah consists of lands that produce zero property tax revenue. Utah isn’t alone in this. In the West, one out of every two acres is owned by the federal government,” said Congressman Bishop. “While educators and administrators do the very best they can with the resources they have available, educational opportunities for our children should not be hurt by the West’s absentee landlord- the federal government.”

http://robbishop.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=261296

Let’s dive a little deeper into this statement.  According to the federal property profile of 2004 (the newest final profile I could locate on the web), the western states’ federally owned property looks like this:

http://www.gsa.gov/graphics/ogp/Annual_Report__FY2004_Final_R2M-n11_0Z5RDZ-i34K-pR.pdf

STATE TOTAL ACRES OWNED BY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACRES NOT OWNED BY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACREAGE OF STATE % OWNED BY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
ALASKA

252,495,811.30

112,985,788.70

365,481,600.00

69.09%

ARIZONA

34,933,236.10

37,754,763.90

72,688,000.00

48.06%

CALIFORNIA

45,393,237.50

54,813,482.50

100,206,720.00

45.30%

COLORADO

24,354,712.80

42,131,047.20

66,485,760.00

36.63%

IDAHO

26,565,411.80

26,367,708.20

52,933,120.00

50.19%

MONTANA

27,910,151.80

65,360,888.20

93,271,040.00

29.92%

NEVADA

59,362,642.50

10,901,677.50

70,264,320.00

84.48%

NEW MEXICO

32,483,876.50

45,282,523.50

77,766,400.00

41.77%

OREGON

32,715,514.10

28,883,205.90

61,598,720.00

53.11%

UTAH

30,271,905.20

22,425,054.80

52,696,960.00

57.45%

WASHINGTON

12,949,661.70

29,744,098.30

42,693,760.00

30.33%

It is easy to see the Federal Government control over western states is overwhelming. States’ rights to properties within its borders are managed by a Congress whose majority may have little experience with the unique characteristics of such large tracts of land, its management, and best practices. This leads us to HR 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. Congressman Bishop again injects his concern for the lack of knowledge of our nation’s Congress when it comes to federal properties.

 


  “The biggest problem we have is the people in the East … they have no clue what wilderness is. They still think Central Park is wilderness,” he said. “When you talk about releasing stuff, they’re very susceptible to the idea that this is somehow going to degrade society even though we’re talking about areas that have already been adjudicated by the process and are not worthy of being wilderness.”

 With such a diverse collection of strong parties affected by the control of western properties, is there no better time for a strong alliance for the purpose of education on the subject of federally owned public land? Grazing, logging, hunter’s access, OHV and multiple-use access all benefit from locally managed public lands. Individual states’ rights and “Job Creation” are powerful statements in this Congress.

Supporters of HR 1581

  • NRA
  • American Motorcycle Association
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef   Association
  • Public Lands Council
  • Safari Club International
  • Association of American Loggers
  • California Associated Loggers
  • California Forestry Association
  • Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
  • Motorcycle Industry Council
  • Stewards of the Sequoia
  • CORVA
  • American Snowmobilers Association
  • Off Road Business Association
  • Blue Ribbon Coalition
  • California Cattlemen’s Association
  • National Association of Counties
  • US Chamber of Commerce
  • Western Business Roundtable
  • Professionals for Managed Recreation
  • Associated Oregon Loggers
  •  Kernville Chamber of Commerce

How can these affect OHV users and the 29 Palms base expansion? Well, if you have not already started to consider the monumental task ahead of OHV users regarding the Department of Defense submitting 29 Palms Expansion Alternative 6 before Congress, and our ability to convince Congress to reject the plan, the struggle of HR 1581, should be a lesson. With such a wide variety of support, one would think it should be a slam-dunk; sadly it is not. There is no doubt HR1581 should pass if you use common sense. It simply asks Congress to do its job, and either designate these lands as wilderness, or release them to the managing authority. Common sense seems less common these days.

OHV users must put their full support behind the education of congressional members east of the Rockies. We must springboard off the sheer numbers that support HR1581, rather than finance the monumental task of convincing Congress that the 29 Palms base expansion is detrimental to our states economy, the lack of a demonstration of need by the Marine Corps, and the impact on recreational activities and potential resource damage due to a possible increase in illegal riding in California. OHV users must utilize this opportunity to partner with the better-funded lobbies and begin a campaign that educates congressional members that the Western States need to be managed in a manner best suited for our unique environment.

 

The Off-Road Business Association estimates the cost of a federal lawsuit regarding the 29 Palms Base expansions in the $250,000.00 range, but no one can be sure of actual costs. It seems inevitable that a lawsuit will need to be filed if we wish to continue recreation opportunities on the largest OHV area in the United States. In addition, the cost to lobby congress on this matter is no easy budget to formulate, and it is difficult to quantify the cost of education of the public on a national scale. Frankly speaking, OHV access advocates will have to take a page from our successful opponents of OHV use and launch a propaganda campaign in order to stop base expansion.

We can start the education process today, by engaging in support of HR1581, and I strongly suggest we join the discussion on how best we can move this bill through Congress. Congressman McCarthy has invited grassroots organizations to engage in idea building, information sharing, and strategic partnerships. The time has come for OHV users to answer his call to arms, and consider the future of our rights as more than just OHV users, but as citizens of the Western United States of America.

Who actually owns the West?

  • The 2004 final Federal Property Profile reports, 579,436,161.30 acres are owned by the Federal Government.
  • When you calculate the percentage of property owned by the federal Government you will find startling answers. 54.9% of the property in the western states is federally owned.
  • This does not include any State owned Property.
  • Why does the Federal Government own more than half of the Western States? A bigger question might be why is a large and growing portion of it restricted from the publics use?
  • Perhaps the question every American should be asking is what is being used as collateral for our enormous foreign debt?
  • Is it possible that Foreign lien holders could be using the larger part of the Western states as security for its loans? And will they be as concerned about the protection of its resources if they call the note?

http://www.gsa.gov/graphics/ogp/Annual_Report__FY2004_Final_R2M-n11_0Z5RDZ-i34K-pR.pdf

About the Author

Jeff Knoll is the former Event Director for the King of the Hammers event. He has raced various classes in SCORE, BITD, MORE, and MDR. Following the California 200, Knoll travelled to Washington, DC to meet with BLM officials regarding the Special Recreation Permit policies of the BLM. Knoll serves on the BLM’s Desert Advisory Sub-Committee regarding Special Recreation Permits. Knoll also drafted language for Nevada’s Senate Bill 156 in 2011 regarding action sports safety.

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