Federal public land is an economic windfall, in addition to being historically consistent and constitutional. A land-transfer would be an irreversible loss for public access, land quality, and long-term revenue generation. If you're nerdy like us, you can read all about it below.
States are subject to tighter fiscal tolerances than the federal government. In some ways, that's a good thing. In others, it presents a problem. For federal public land, states have the advantage of not bearing fiscal responsibility for management. That is, the federal government foots the bill for management including maintenance, access procedures, grazing administration, enforcement, and wildfire response. In addition to paying for management, the federal government gives each state what are known as Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or "PILTS."
Unsurprisingly, the economic arithmetic of public land in the west supports keeping public land under federal management. Via the states' own fiscal analyses, a land-transfer would grow state expenditures, generating large deficits and debt that would yield one of three bad outcomes:
- In the "best-of-the-worst" case, state deficits grow considerably and tax hikes are levied on residents in an effort to slow expanding debt, so that the status quo of broad public land access can be maintained. Given politicians' constant pursuit of re-election, this seems unlikely, to put it mildly. The alternatives, however, are even worse.
- States could attempt to overcome the new expenses by managing previously accessible land with an eye toward short-term-profit, invariably leading to long-term-loss. The states would have to gut the mixed-model that the federal government currently employs, which allows for recreation access, cheap extraction leases, and low grazing fees. The lands would be viewed strictly as a taxable-revenue generator, and industry would become the primary actor on the land. While taxable-revenue is absolutely a good thing, eviscerating the mixed-model with an eye toward short-term profit would yield a long-term revenue loss due to access reduction, land degradation, negative impacts to the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, the loss of PILTS, and harm to ranching communities.
- In the final scenario, states offset their new expenses by selling public land outright, throwing away our greatest national treasure for the sake of balancing budgets that wouldn't need balancing if it weren't for a land-transfer.
Simply put, state-level budgets do not allow for the existence of the current level of public land and access, nor a balanced mixed-model that allows for recreation, ranching and industry to co-exist. The federal government has the financial leeway to manage land with an eye toward public access and long-term dividends - something that the states simply can't match.
We are committed to fighting for public land, and will oppose a land-transfer at every step of the way. #keepitpublic