(For example) Across the West, more than 70 percent of the available habitat for trout, and virtually all of the strongholds for native trout, are found on public lands. The high quality fishing and hunting opportunities found within a two-hours' drive of Redding are almost all on public lands. Much of the Trinity River, with its world-class steelhead fishing, flows from and through national forests. Same with the legendary trout fishing in the McCloud and upper Sacramento rivers. The fabled B zones in our backyard offer some of the country's best Blacktail deer hunting.
Sometimes we take for granted how valuable public lands are for outdoor pursuits like hiking, hunting and fishing. They offer cheap — often free — access and camping. They offer plenty of undeveloped, scenic landscapes. You can drive to much of these lands, and hike or ride a horse to the rest.
Maybe the best thing about them, however, is that federal public lands belong to all Americans, not just to residents of the state or county in which they happen to be. That's one of the most egalitarian concepts this country has ever advanced. And it's pretty unique in the world.
But this concept is again under attack. In recent years, more than 50 bills have been introduced in state legislatures to transfer, sell or otherwise reduce the public lands managed for all Americans by the Forest Service and the BLM. Congress is considering similar proposals.
No doubt management of these lands could be improved. But let's be real: "Transfers" of public lands to states or private entities are unlikely to achieve this. No state can afford the costs of wildfire response on these lands, let alone the overhead costs associated with conserving the ecological, scenic and historical values of these lands and ensuring reasonable recreational and commercial access.
Nor is offloading federal public lands likely to improve access or quality of opportunity for hiking, riding, fishing and hunting. Just look at what most states have done with open space they have owned; they've mostly sold it off.
Those pushing for the so-called "return" of federal lands to states conveniently ignore an important fact: at no time did the Western federally managed public lands belong to the states. Title to these lands was either ceded to the federal government as a condition of statehood or acquired through treaty, conquest or purchase by the federal government acting on behalf of the citizens of the United States.
Public lands are one of the best ideas America ever had.
Just say no to the misguided effort to assert local control over our national forests and BLM lands. It's a fiscally unsustainable idea, likely to reduce public access and diminish fishing and hunting opportunities — and it's a slap in the face to Teddy Roosevelt and other sportsmen-conservationists by whose vision and sporting ethic we have these lands in the first place.
To see this opinion in the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper, go HERE.