ALEC in the Albuquerque Journal: Give public lands to states for management
Wildfires often start on federal land, and the agencies responsible for the bulk of the federal estate – BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service – have earned their reputations for poor stewardship.
Last month, the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires erupted in northeastern New Mexico, merging to create the United States’ largest active wildfire and resulting in a presidential disaster declaration. With only 30% of the blaze contained, the fire has burned more than 270,447 acres as of May 13. Few living in America’s western states were surprised to learn the federal government was to blame: the original Hermits Peak blaze was sparked by a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn.
Wildfires often start on federal land, and the agencies responsible for the bulk of the federal estate – BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service – have earned their reputations for poor stewardship. New Mexico’s Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called on the federal government to overhaul prescribed burn procedures and prohibit them in windy, dry conditions. New Mexicans are rightly frustrated that federal officials miscalculated so catastrophically by igniting a prescribed burn at this time of year.
One possible solution is conservation leasing – a free market, environmental protection strategy where environmental groups have the opportunity to lease and preserve the land. However, federal regulations require leaseholders on federal lands to extract, harvest, graze or otherwise develop their leases or risk losing them, meaning that conservation leasing violates federal law.