VIDEO: States know best how to manage public lands

There's a fundamental principle that government closest to the people is best for the people. Our federal government is in place for some very good and appropriate things but to be a macro land manager is not what the federal government is set up for. That's left to the states.

This week on ALEC TV, we interviewed Utah State Representatives Keven Stratton and Ken Ivory about tranfering management of federal lands to the states. Below are highlights from their conversation with  Karla Jones, Senior Director of the ALEC Task Force on Federalism and International Relations, and ALEC Public Affairs Director Catherine Mortensen.

Catherine Mortensen: Rep. Ivory, last time we spoke with you, you were in Lincoln, Nebraska attending a summit on the so-called Thirty-by Thirty plan which is where the federal government would take control of 30 percent of all U.S. lands and water and put them into conservation status, basically making them off-limits for shared uses. Can you tell us how that summit went?

Rep. Ken Ivory: People need to know that Thirty-by-Thirty is just an interim step. What they really want is Fifty-by-Fifty, to lock up 50 percent of ours lands and water by the year 2050. Nebraska Gov. Ricketts made a really good point. Imagine if you went in and someone decides they want to just just block off 30 percent of your home or 50 percent of your home. And that may be the entrance to your home. It may be the kitchen of your home. But they just indiscriminately draw a line and lock off 50 percent of your home. If you can’t get through that room it may not even matter that you control the other 50 or 30 percent. If you can’t get through critical areas of your home or critical places to maybe the water heater or the power shut off is in a different part of the home. That’s really what is happening in our state. In Utah 65 percent of the land is federally controlled.

Karla Jones: A lot of people are calling this a land grab. What alarms you about this plan?

Rep. Keven Stratton: The challenge that we have with the Thirty-by-Thirty plan is it would impose the most stringent and most restrictive regulatory schemes.  It would  prohibits any type of effective wise stewardship and management and care of the land. There’s a fundamental principle that government closest to the people is best for the people. We have specific proven cases where you see state managed lands or tribal managed lands, with a direct line with federally managed lands and it is like night and day on what’s taking place. Our federal government is in place for some very good and appropriate things but to be a macro land manager is not what the federal government is set up for. That’s left for the states.

Karla Jones: The Biden administration has pledged to consult with the states and local governments on this land usage plan. Has that been happening?

Rep. Ken Ivory: In Nebraska last week, I asked the attendees, most of them state and local leaders throughout the wetstern United States, by a show of hands, how many of them knew about, let alone been involved in any of these coordinations with the federal government. Not a single hand went up. This has been driven from the top down and from the administration down. So again, power centralizing to the national government and at the national government level.  This is exactly what our founders fought against. They wanted power to be divided and distributed to states, not centralized in the federal government.  There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to engage in broad scale land management over the United States.

Catherine Mortensen: I want to turn next to the issue of national security because this is something that I don’t think enough Americans fully appreciate when it comes to the management of our federal lands. We import more than 50 percent of the Rare Earths Elements and critical elements. These are essential to green technologies and addressing climate change. Many are imported from China. Most and most cobalt that we get here in the U.S. is coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation that is far from stable and in fact it’s on the verge of being a failed state. So I don’t think that’s a great, reliable energy partner for us. We have a lot of these critical elements on our own federal lands. We should be developing them from within and not relying on countries like China.

Carla Jones: Basically everything that underpins our innovation economy and frankly, our green economy,  comes from these rare earth minerals and critical minerals.

Rep. Keven Stratton: There is not a nation on this Earth that has richer resources than the United States of America. If you want to destroy our nation,  how do you do it? You do it from within. You shut down and cut off  our ability to responsibly and wisely harvest and manage the resources.

Rep. Ken Ivory: I’d like to share a quick story. I had a dear friend who was down at Bryce Canyon with her horses after her husband had just passed away. She was really just just kind of lost and distraught. She went out for a horseback ride, and trailered her horses down there. And she called me I’m up in Salt Lake and she said, “Oh, Ken, I need your help? I’ve lost my horses. I don’t know where they are.”  I’m four hours away. And I said, “Let me call the county commissioner down there and I bet he can help you. I called Commissioner Leland Pollack, he said, “Is your friend outside of Rubies Inn by Bryce Canyon?” I said, “Yes, that’s where she said she lost her horses.” He said, “Well, I know right where the horses are.”  Sure enough, he got on the phone and told her right where to go. And that’s exactly where the horses were. Because he knows that lands so well. The county commissioners know where the horses are. They know where the opportunities are. They know how to manage the land and care for the land. You get a bureaucrat from New Jersey that comes out you know, with a freshly minted college degree and doesn’t know anything about our forests, our land, our makeup, the geography, the topography, the geology. And we get these issues that we have. We’re compounding problem on top of problem and the federal government’s solution is another federal solution to compound the problems they’ve already created.

Click here to view the full interview.