One of the ways that I stay current on Western conservation and land management is through Google Alerts, and lately I’ve been seeing blog posts with a “wasted government lands” theme. This Arizona Republic article tells us that the U.S. government, mostly the BLM and US Forest Service, manage millions of acres of Western lands that would be better in the hands of locals – because they live here. Don’t be fooled by this thinly veiled Sagebrush Rebellion mumbo-jumbo.
Resistance to government managed lands, wilderness, conservation, roadless areas, places that are simply left alone and undeveloped peaked under the “Sagebrush Rebellion” movement in the ’70’s and ’80’s – even Ronald Reagan branded himself a sagebrush rebel at a 1980 speech in Salt Lake City. The modern day rebels are tapping into the don’t trust government political mood while labeling some lands as “ordinary.” What the hell does that mean? What is the threshold for ordinary? The Arizona Republic piece describes “more-ordinary lands” as those “used principally for recreational purposes, such as hiking, hunting, fishing and off-road vehicle use.” Who gets to categorize and place a value on land that is commercially viable, ordinary, or somehow special? Frankly, turning over vast public lands to local politicans would be the most disastrous thing we could possibly do. The system, where the BLM and USFS manage our lands for multiple use and determines where development occurs is far from perfect; but land managers have a larger view that’s informed by science and stakeholders – you and me. We have input into decisions about how our lands are managed. Consider the image posted with this article. Adobe Town is a rugged badlands, a wilderness-quality landscape that some would describe as “ordinary lands or commercially viable lands.” Some see potential for gas rigs and unchecked ATV use while others see a vast badlands wilderness befitting of wilderness designation. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Sweetwater County, Wyoming or anywhere else in the U.S., it’s your land and you have a voice in how it’s managed. Biodiversity Conservation Alliance has led the grassroots campaign to protect Adobe Town for years and they’ve succeeded. I’ll stand with grassroots activists over industry-backed “Sagebrush Rebels” and bureacrats.