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International Honor Society in Social Sciences
The mission of Pi Gamma Mu is to encourage and promote excellence in the Social Sciences and to uphold and nurture scholarship, leadership, and service.

SHADOW PRESIDENT UPDATE

The Pi Gamma Mu Shadow President was conceptualized for the 2008 Triennial International Convention--aptly named "A Political Party."  Elected by the student delegates, the assignment for the Shadow President was to propose policy ideas and evaluate the initiatives of the current President of the United States in an occasional Newsletter column.  In this issue: Public Lands, By Aaron Miller.

Public Lands

By Aaron Miller
Pi Gamma Mu Co-Shadow President

MillerIt is hard to tell where the current administration positions itself when it comes to protecting the land that each of us own equally, Public Lands.  The message being sent is less government and more ownership, but is this really the best course of action when it comes to managing public land?

Under the current system, these lands are protected and managed by five federal agencies ensuring conservation and access.  Under individual state management the same public land freedoms which American citizens enjoy today are not as safe.  The ability to live off it, own it, hunt on it, and survive off it is not guaranteed.  The premise in which the current administration is selling the idea of rolling back public lands and returning them to states is misleading and not all facts are presented.  The President and the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Ryan Zinke, invoke bureaucrats in Washington DC for depriving states of their natural resources and committing government overreach.  However, in the context of public lands this sentiment is misleading.

Under the management of the federal government more than 640,000,000 acres of land remain open for public use.  As long as this property remains in public hands it is protected.  Public lands activist and outdoor writer Randy Newberg sums it up best saying, "The thing is, the states don't have the funding, and they're…not going to raise taxes.  So, in order to pay for management, some lands will either be sold or developed to maximize revenue."  If a state transfer were to occur states would have a hard time managing the cost of this endeavor.  In turn, a state would be forced to sell off or lease the land closing it to public access.  For example, Idaho has approximately 32,623,376 acres of public land and a population of 1,716,943.  This is a guaranteed deficit.  The only way to manage this would be a sale or lease.

In Wyoming the state receives only 48% of mineral revenue generated on public land.  The federal government received the remaining 52%.  "Giving Wyoming more control over public land is unlikely to result in a financial windfall because state regulators would still have to adhere to federal laws over the terrain."  If this land were to be returned to the state for Wyoming to manage, the profit distribution would not change.  Wyoming would then be responsible for managing land they lose money on and would still be required to comply with federal regulations.

Oregon's Elliott State Forest is a good example of what happens if a state transfer occurs.  The value of Oregon's timber has left Elliott State Forest some of the last public lands in Coos County.  Lawsuits and restrictions recently placed on the logging industry in Oregon put a damper of the education funding received from the timber harvest.  It forced the state to look elsewhere for funds.  The decision Oregon made was to sell the 84,000 acres until the Oregon Land Board was able to keep the land in public hands.

Is there a fiscal advantage to keeping public lands public?  The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released GDP outputs from the outdoor recreation industry.  The report estimates that "outdoor recreation contributed over $373 billion toward U.S. GDP or over $673 billion toward total U.S. gross output…"  Additionally, the report highlights that consumers spend $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation.  A separate study shows that "economists have found that western national parks, monuments, and other protected federal public lands support faster rates of job growth and are correlated with higher levels of per capita income."  In Alaska, the public lands generate a billion-dollar industry centered around tourism.  Annually, tens of thousands of visitors come to the small town of Whittier, population of 200.  The town hosts four water taxis, four kayak rental and tour companies, 26 guide outfitters, five daily boat tours, and hundreds of boats are permanently docked there.  All revolve around the public lands.

Who should benefit from these public lands that each of us own?  Should the small business owners and the rural communities that have vested interest in protecting their back yard?  Or should international corporations control our land via decisions that are intentionally forced upon us by the current administration?

Arron Miller is an active duty army officer with 15 years of service and holds a Masters in Diplomacy from Norwich University.  The views and opinions shared here are his and do not represent the United States government, the United States army, Pi Gamma Mu, or its members.

 

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Front Page

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SHADOW PRESIDENT UPDATE - PUBLIC LANDS

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