The Leaflet – States Consider Returning Public Lands to State Control

Published October 8, 2015


States Consider Returning Public Lands to State Control

Approximately half of the land in the western United States – including most of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming – is owned by the federal government. Many states want that land back, and in 2015 more than 50 bills addressing the issue were considered by state legislatures. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming considered such bills.

State concerns over federal land management stem from restrictions on natural resource development, poor land stewardship, limitations on access, and low financial returns. Apparently ignoring states’ concerns, President Barack Obama’s administration lobbied to reauthorize theLand and Water Conservation Fund, which raises nearly $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas leases and uses that money to bring more land under federal control.

According to a recent study by Holly Fretwell, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), “the federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.” The study also finds “states examined earn an average of $14.51 for every dollar spent on state trust land management. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management generate only 73 cents in return for every dollar spent on federal land management.”

Karla Jones, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Task Force on International Relations and Federalism, recently published a federal lands report finding the disparity between federal and state management largely comes down to bureaucracy, with the federal government’s “use it or lose it budgeting.”

The American Lands Council says returning federal public lands to willing states for local control will “provide better public access, better environmental health, and better economic productivity.” 

Budget and Tax
Research & Commentary: Wyoming Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
Wyoming’s civil asset forfeiture laws give law enforcement agencies significant financial incentives to seize people’s property. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as civil judicial forfeiture, is a controversial legal process by which law enforcement agencies take personal assets from individuals or groups suspected of a crime or illegal activity. The standards of proof allowing seizure differ from state to state.

Two proposals, both of which would improve on the current system, are being debated. Both address the low burden of proof and give rights back to the property owners. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans advises Wyoming lawmakers to strongly consider these reforms. They should work to ensure assets are seized only for legal reasons and to remove the incentive for law enforcement to seize any more property than necessary. Read more

School Choice Weekly #108: Reducing Racial Tensions, Rebuilding Families
Joy Pullmann, a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute, highlights the racial inequalities in New York schools. The first incident she recounts was prompted by an ad comparing white and minority children and the schools they will have the fortune, or misfortune, of attending. The second comes from Brooklyn, where progressive white parents are protesting redistricting that would zone minority children into their schools. Read more

Energy and Environment
Return of Federal Lands Emerges as a ‘States Rights’ Issue
Returning lands owned by the national government to the states is emerging as a public policy issue. The battle line for this issue has been drawn in the West. Nearly 50 percent of all lands in the Western United States are owned by the federal government, totaling 640 million acres. Project Manager for Constitutional Reform Kyle Maichle explains how taxpayers are stuck paying the bills to maintain these lands. Read more

Health Care
Research & Commentary: How Missouri Should Handle Transitional Care Facilities
Senior citizens have longer recovery rates after surgery, and the market has responded with transitional care facilities (TCF), which offer an alternative many seniors use for post-acute and rehabilitation health care needs.

Missouri’s certificate of need (CON) system currently designates TCFs as skilled nursing facilities, which not only ignores the distinct differences between the two but also imposes bed and technology limits that are strangling the rest of the health care industry. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues Missouri lawmakers should not add TCFs and other facilities to the state’s CON program and should instead look to reduce burdensome regulations that increase the cost of health care while limiting access. Read more

Will Government Spectrum Permissions Throttle 4G Evolution to 5G Wireless?
In this Heartlander article, Scott Cleland, president of Precursor® LLC,  examines how the Obama administration and Federal Communications Commission stretched the definition of broadband to reach their political goal of ensuring wireless broadband service not be considered an official competitor to wireline broadband service. “The federal government’s decision to effectively shut-down the spectrum pipeline for more licensed and unlicensed spectrum use threatens the longstanding and hugely successful federal policy of ‘permissionless innovation’ which is not requiring the government to pre-approve innovations before they can be market-tested or go to market.”Read more

From Our Free-Market Friends
The John Locke Foundation Hosts Luncheon with Arthur C. Brooks
The John Locke Foundation, Civitas Institute, and Palmetto Promise Institute host a luncheon and book signing with Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute . Brooks will speak about his book, The Conservative Heart: How To Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.  The event takes place on Wednesday, October 28 at 12:00 noon at Nan & Byron’s Restaurant in Charlotte, NC. Register for the event here.




The October issue of Environment & Climate News reports the Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled proposed regulations that would force oil and gas producers to cut methane emissions by almost half. The proposal is facing fierce opposition from lawmakers, energy groups, and free-market environmentalists who argue the rules are unnecessary and will hamper an energy revolution that has been one of the nation’s few success stories since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

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