WY Legislator Sets the Record Straight on Anti-TPL Op Ed

HalversonH22.jpgA few weeks ago, Wyofile.com published a hit piece in its op ed section that was intended to discredit the Transfer of Public Lands (TPL) movement. Thankfully, Representative Marti Halverson has been intensely involved in the TPL movement for years and was able to send the following letter to the editor of that publication to set the record straight. This letter has not yet been printed by Wyofile.com, but Rep. Halverson was kind enough to share a copy with us. 

In response to Tory Taylor's op ed on 3/29/16, Rep. Halverson takes the time to sift through the piles of fiction to reveal the hard core facts that anti-TPL groups don't want you to know. 


Please note that Rep. Halverson's responses are in RED, while the text of the original post remains in black.

Response by WY Rep. Marti Halverson to: Open letter to Lummis — no merit in land-grab billby Guest Column | MARCH 29, 2016   By Tory Taylor

Dear Representative Cynthia Lummis,

Thank you for your form letter explaining H.R. 2316, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act.I have carefully studied your explanatory letter and found no redeeming merit to H.R. 2316. I remain strongly opposed.

You state that H.R. 2316 is not a ‘land-grab’ bill, but that is exactly what it is — a land-grab

NOT a “land-grab.”  These are inflammatory, unhelpful words with no factual foundation, and not conducive to a discussion – if a discussion is what you desire.  Transfer is an effort to get the federal government to live up to its promise to “dispose” of its title in favor of the state – as it did for 32 other states.  If there is a “land grab” going on, it is in the form of the BLM snapping up yet more sage grouse territory as the price for the bird’s delisting.

 and a power-grab.

“Power-grab”?  How do you figure, “power”?  Perhaps, in the sense that Wyoming wants the “power” to clean up neglected forests, re-open trails closed by the USFS, restore decimated moose, mule deer and elk herds, and power to control livestock predators.

The bill seeks to remove control of some U.S. Forest Service lands from the owners of federal lands — the American public —

The “American public” is seeing access to its lands closed at every turn.  The most egregious USFS action was the closure of the entire Plumas National Forest in California.  The “American public” is being shut out. 

Further, I challenge the notion that half of Wyoming should belong to the “American public” – please defend the idea that New Jersey residents, or Florida residents, or Illinois and Texas residents, should be “owners” of 48% of the State of Wyoming.  The average Rhode Islander has no idea what a sage grouse is, and much less appreciates the FACT that more cattle on the range equal more sage grouse on the range.  Do you think Delaware, or South Carolina would appreciate it if the “American Public” owned half of its land?

and, instead, give control to carefully state-selected groups of special interests.

What is the basis for this claim?  It is a scare tactic dreamed up by anti-transfer “special interests.”  And, the false, brazen rhetoric goes so far as “selling Yellowstone to the Koch brothers.”  Perhaps you do not consider Wyoming hunters, anglers, ranchers, trail-riders to be “special interests.” Perhaps you do not consider our schools and public safety personnel to be “special interests.”

These carefully selected

Oh, for Pete’s sake – “carefully selected”??  By whom?  How “selected” exactly?  With tourism being Wyoming’s number two industry (agriculture being number three) do you imagine that legislators in Cheyenne are going to kill that golden goose in these times of reduced mineral revenues?

special-interest groups will no doubt place economic activities on federal lands above other public land uses such as wildlife habitat protection, clean air and water, and non-motorized recreation.

So, you are stating that “economic activities” cannot exist along with “wildlife habitat protection, clean air and water, and non-motorized recreation”?  That one obviates the other?  That’s awfully narrow thinking. Who are you to say what comprises “uses”?  Or, perhaps you do not subscribe to the “multiple use” principle? Perhaps you would provide us with a list of “public uses approved by Tory.”

I do not believe in living in the past, but we can learn from history to better understand the present and help map the future. Distrust and hostility toward the United States government (aka The Feds) is a part of American and Wyoming history. States’ rights versus federal rights is an issue as old as our nation. This issue was central in the drafting of our national constitution. Delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Congress struggled greatly with federal and state rights. From 1861 to 1865 our nation again struggled with the issue, this time violently, and nearly doomed our nation during the Civil War. Pushback against the federal government surfaced as far back as the 1800’s Indian Wars, the 1846 war with Mexico, and the 1847 settlement of Utah and Wyoming by Mormon pioneers.

Resentment of federal ownership of much of the West has cropped up decade after decade,

It started in 1830 – Missouri Democrat U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton successfully fought for the transfer of lands in Missouri, Illinois, Florida, and other states considered “the West” at the time, from federal ownership to state ownership.  Transfer to the states was the norm until 1976, when the Federal Land Policy Management Act was passed.

often by those who stand to make a buck from federal lands.

You ascribe making “a buck” as the sole motive behind the transfer movement.  Actually, you are only partially right, as responsible productivity is, indeed, one goal.  Other goals are public access to the lands and managing for the health of the land, as opposed to “museum management” which has resulted in catastrophic fires, destroyed watersheds and caused the death of millions of animals, domestic and wild.

PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payments inadequately cover the expenses counties and municipalities face in providing education, public safety and other amenities.  Wyoming has to fight for its, reduced, PILT and SRS money every year.

Access, even to visitors – the “American Public” - to public land is being cut off purposefully and with alarming frequency.

It seems we Westerners do not want federal control and regulations, but we gladly accept federal money

Not exactly.  Many of us do not “gladly” accept federal money.  Some of us actually see federal money as the blackmail and/or bribery that it is and we resent the strings that accompany federal, taxpayer dollars.  As the federal government goes deeper into debt, these handouts, over and above what we have coming to us (federal mineral royalties, fuel taxes, PILT and SRS payments, and the like), WILL disappear.  The day may come when even that which we have “coming to us” will diminish.

We’d darn well better have another revenue stream lined up in that event.

and natural resources. In recent decades the Western states’ culture and custom of federal-government bashing has surfaced in the Sagebrush Rebellion, the People for the West, the Wise Use Movement, and other groups. Most recently we have seen federal government resentment take the form of domestic terrorism

The ages-old debate – my domestic terrorists, your freedom fighters – only the players change.

at the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said that Texas has 2 percent of public land and that is 2 percent too much.

Recently I had had an alarming discussion with a young, card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party who told me that Libertarians and the Tea Party do not believe in public lands and that all public land should be privatized. Is this correct?

This may be “correct” in this young person’s mind, but it is not at all correct among Western land transfer advocates.  This is another scare tactic attempting to conflate transfer and privatization.

During the 2016 elections, I hope voters will ask candidates exactly where they stand on federal public lands.

I do, too.

Hostility towards “The Feds” is a fundamental political tool in Wyoming as well as other Western states. Federal government bashing is a favorite pastime and sport with some. I have at times cussed “The Feds,” appealed their management decisions, and been involved with taking them to court. At other times I have worked closely with them and have supported their management decisions for public lands. I have used existing federal processes to exert my local voice.

Transfer advocates also have “existing federal processes” – our statehood enabling acts which call for the federal government to “dispose” of the land to which they retained title at statehood.

The federal government has a “duty to dispose.”  We want disposition to be to the states.  If public lands are “sold,” the federal government receives 95% of the proceeds – the other 5% must go to the states’ school accounts.

So . . . who, exactly, is motivated to SELL?  As a matter of fact, there are currently two bills in the US congress to “sell” public lands.  One bill designates the proceeds to the reduction of the federal debt; the other directs proceeds to the highway trust fund.

“The Feds” are not enemies; they are part of the Wyoming landscape and life. Federal employees are our neighbors, the folks we visit with at the post office and the grocery store, the people sitting next to us in pews, and the fans in the high school gymnasium stands cheering the boys and girls on the sports floor.

Agreed.  Our local federal land and forest managers are nice folks.  And, they will make nice state employees.

“The Feds” are professionals doing their best while some Washington, D.C. lawmakers are gutting their budgets and stripping their ability to manage federal public lands.

Not exactly.  They are political professionals, political appointees serving their own “special interests” – namely, their jobs and their political bosses - in an administration that wants to shut down energy development, multiple use, etc.  President Obama has submitted at $3.6 TRILLION budget – with huge cuts for USFS, again - where is his priority for public lands?

Representative Lummis, you portray H.R. 2316 as a benign bill. I see it differently. It will add another layer of state bureaucracy to the existing federal management of public land, thereby increasing government, not shrinking it.

No, no, no.  It will eliminate the level of government that is 1,500 miles away.  The distant bureaucracy that have never stepped foot in Wyoming, yet have a destructive vision of The Wyoming National Park, Wildlife Refuge and Energy Museum.

You say that the state can manage public land better than the federal government, yet several wildlife populations declined while under state management.

Declines are actually attributed to federal meddling, such as the introduction of a non-native wolf, to name one.  Federally protected predators caused the decline of moose, elk and deer.  We can have healthy populations of wolves and grizzlies – OR – healthy populations of moose, elk and deer.  WE CANNOT HAVE BOTH.

Some wildlife populations now have to be protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act, a federal law in the cross-hair sights of industry and their politicians.

Do you have a plan for managing sensitive and endangered species with no money?  Politicians would love to hear it.

Wyoming citizens may wish to study a recent land management experiment that took place in northern New Mexico. The 100,000 acre Baca Ranch was established in 1876 and changed hands several times. The ranch was overgrazed, improperly logged, and finally offered for sale. In 2000, the Baca Ranch was purchased by the federal government and became the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Today cattle grazing is permitted on a sustainable level, the preserve offers numerous public recreational opportunities, and the grassy preserve is elk heaven. Hunters, and future generations of hunters, now have access and fantastic elk hunting and fishing opportunities on this federal public land.

Do they have grizzlies and gigantic Asian wolves? 

In closing, Representative Lummis, I hope those candidates who run for your office when you step down will make very clear to Wyoming voters their views on federal land management.

Me, too.

Those who wish to put federal lands under state control are like a dog chasing a car. What are they going to do if they catch it? Be careful of what you ask for.

See the 10-year transfer process from the Crown to the Northwest Territory in Canada.  https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1352398433161/1352400493640  and  http://devolution.gov.nt.ca

Given the federal debt, you must be able to appreciate the collateral that is federal land.  Our debt is 105% of the nation’s economy – our economy alone no longer sufficiently collateralizes our borrowing.  Transfer advocates are just as fearful of “selling” public land as those opposing transfer.  If public land is ever considered for sale – and, it is by some folks in Washington – with whom would you rather deal?  Cheyenne? Or a US senate/house, where most of the members have no clue as to anything “West”?

Anticipating your “it’s unconstitutional” argument:  http://le.utah.gov/interim/2015/pdf/00005590.pdf


Although not a spokesperson for the American lands Council, we are grateful to Rep. Halverson for taking the time to become intimately familiar with the public lands situation in our states as well as the Transfer of Public Lands efforts. She speaks clearly and concisely in regards to several points of misinformation published by those who would have western states remain second class citizens, deprived of the ability to better fund education, protect our forests, or preserve the water, air and wildlife within our borders. 

Does your elected official understand the Transfer of Public Lands? Have your 2016 candidates signed the Pledge to be a true leader to #UnlockOurLands according to the American Lands Council's Public Policy Statement? If not, urge them to download it today!


Showing 4 reactions

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  • Marjorie Haun
    commented 2016-05-22 09:28:02 -0600
    Chris. I encourage you to read American Lands Council Public Policy Statement, as well as the legal analysis of Utah’s forthcoming legislation. There is no clause within our platform or existing legislation to “sell off the land.” “Federal public lands shall become state public lands to be managed in accordance with state and local plans.” Management may look different in California than it would in Idaho, for instance, but the lands stay public. The irony in your statement is that you portray transferring federally-controlled lands to entities closer to the people a “land grab.” The fact is the federal government often sells off public lands. The BLM and U.S. Forest Service ordinarily administer such sells. It’s all found in the Federal Register. The National Parks Service is currently selling advertising rights to global corporations, such as Subaru and Coca-Cola so they can place ads throughout national parks and monuments. And the greatest degree of restriction comes from federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife, which regularly close off access for myriad reasons.
    Public schools in the West struggle with funding because the revenues from public lands, which states east of the Continental Divide use to fund public education, are confiscated by the federal government.
    There is no existing proposal to “sell off the lands.” Nobody wants that. American Lands Council supports locally-sourced stewardship of public lands by states and local governments, with maximum citizen involvement, and minimum federal restrictions.
  • Chris Christian
    commented 2016-05-22 04:56:09 -0600
    Marjorie Haun – if years of bad logging policy is causing the issue then let’s make them fix the policy – not sell off the land. Negotiation and compromise are possible without throwing out the baby with the bath water. The have a job to do and it’s our job to see that they do it. The Public absolutely will never support this Land Grab and they do not support Halverson’s stubborn insistence that she prevail. She’s overall done a poor job of supporting the interests of her constituency. We are determined to keep Public Lands in Public Hands for everyone, not just the favored few who can afford them.
  • Marjorie Haun
    commented 2016-05-18 08:40:37 -0600
    Please read the research by Property and Environment Research Council (PERC) on how state-managed public lands actually bring significant revenues to states and counties to be used for public education, maintenance and expansion of state park facilities, etc. According to the research those public lands managed by the federal government LOSE about $4.50 per acre, because they are managed inefficiently. It’s not true that states can’t afford to manage public lands, fight wildfires, etc. It IS true that neither states nor the people of the United States can afford to allow the federal government to lose billions per year.
    See the research here—http://www.perc.org/articles/divided-lands-state-vs-federal-management-west
    Furthermore, the U.S. Forest Service uses over 50 percent of its budget per year fighting wildfires, leaving facilities, trails, etc. broken and unusable by the public. With a budget in the billions, it’s not for lack of funding, but the result of decades of unscientific “no-logging” policies.
    If you’re worried about a “land grab” you should be aware that the federal government regularly auctions off public lands to private interests. It’s all in the Federal Register. The National Parks Service is now selling advertising space within parks to massive corporations. If you’re worried about land-grabbing by private interests, you should oppose federal control.
    Who’s taking the public out of public hands—the federal government.
  • Chris Christian
    commented 2016-05-12 10:00:37 -0600
    I am running in opposition to Marti Halverson’s Land Grab. Marti, I don’t care how you put it, the States cannot afford to Grab this Land. It will be sold off to private interests for minerals exploitation the moment it leaves the public grasp and you can rationalize the greed andy way you want to, we will not cede our Public Lands to the real Land Grabbers – the Republican Party. Prepare to man the battlements Marti – we won’t let you pass anything that takes Public Lands our of Public Hands.