Friday, August 9, 2013

The Week in Outdoor Policy - August 9th


Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the 
Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.

Idaho Holds First Federal Land Grab Meeting
The front lines of the Sagebrush Rebellion were in Idaho this week, where the legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee held its first meeting. For the moment, Idaho is the most active of the eight western states that are looking to grab control of the Federal lands within their borders. The point of this committee is to study the idea of public land transfer, which is a little confusing, considering there is already a resolution that demands it. But no matter, the committee will spend the next year and a half holding hearings and making recommendations. This first hearing had presentations on the history of public lands in Idaho and featured a thorough treatise (with a blinding, wall-to-wall-text powerpoint) on the alleged constitutionality of the transfer. In reality, the hearing raised more questions than it answered. One good question might be: legal or not, would this really improve things? Sure, the current system of Federal control is not perfect, but it mostly works. 73% of Idaho voters think protecting public lands is one of the things the Feds do well. There is plenty room for experimentation and improvement, and a lot of the current collaborative efforts are leading the way. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to believe state control would be no better. The biggest reason is money. Idaho cannot hope to match what the Federal government spends (already too little) to manage and maintain public land, meaning much of it would have to be sold. The committee should have plenty of time to wade through all the legalese and realize what a bad idea this is for the outdoors. 

Utah Leads the Way With New Outdoor Recreation Office
Last week’s Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake was something of the unofficial launch for Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. The first of its kind in the nation, this department in the Governor’s office is tasked with implementing a far ranging vision for recreation, which they came up with last winter. Whether or not this vision is even achievable, the mere creation of this office shows a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of outdoor recreation in Utah. Hopefully this office can meet its goals of coordinating with the outdoor industry and boosting outdoor recreation. From a state that too often leads the way on frightening public lands proposals, here is an example other states could actually follow.

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