Part of my Ecology and Plant Diversity class at Cal Poly is attending field trips to public lands around California. We go to learn about the area and the plants that are native to each section of the land. Los Osos Dunes allowed our class to walk freely through the public lands that belong to all Americans and appreciate our birthright. We can enjoy walking through the lands that are set aside for our use and as citizens we trust the state and federal agencies to preserve and protect them.
As a class we are able to freely roam the lands of the sand dunes taking in all the knowledge of the species around and each week we are able to go to a different public land. Our public lands are a space for us to enjoy the outdoors and are close to families around town.
President Trump’s administration has a topic at hand that is affecting our public lands. They are planning to transfer national public land to the states and let them decide what to do with the land.
A High Country News reporter, Robert Nelson said “an implicit assumption in this is that there are core national values that should govern public-land management in all the western states and that the federal government is best placed to advance these values.”
The fear is that the states might privatize the lands and that could lead to eliminating mixed-use requirements and limit public access. In the region as a whole the federal government owns almost 50 percent of the land and just in California they own 20 percent of the state in national forests.
Concern that some states will sell the land to private interests who want to develop it for private gain or allow oil and gas drilling contracts that will ruin the land.
The revised budget rules state essentially that federal land has no value. Western states that have lots of federal land are already introducing legislation leading to land transfers. Little public support has been showed in favor of the transfer of ownership.
In danger are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management, National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges.
A director at The Wilderness Society states that “this is the worst Congress for public lands ever.” The oil and gas companies are in favor of the transfer due to the ability for the states to open up for drilling in order to make more money.
Giving away national land has been on the Republican Party platform since the mid-80s and regained momentum recently with 20 states introducing some form of legislation suggesting the transfer. Worries include local governments in small budget states that won’t be able to invest in management and will end up selling the land to make money.
Kathryn Mulholland, a political science professor at Cal Poly states that “The Carrizo Plain within San Luis Obispo County could be sealed off from public access and turned over to developers. If this trend were to continue on a major scale, then it would reverse decades of effort to protect these lands for all Americans and future generations.”
If the states do not have the money to maintain the public lands, then our beaches and parks could be sold and we will no longer have a place to go to for learning or recreation purposes. Mulholland said “it will certainly broaden our discussion of how governments designate access, use and sanctioned behavior in public spaces, but it could also limit the public spaces that students can actually visit.”
Carrizo Plain was a frequent visit for Cal Poly students for the past few weeks due to a superbloom. If an ownership transfer were to effect that land, students would not be able to share the space.
Soon the lands of America will be all privatized and no longer part of our birthright. My ecology class would have to buy tickets to the public lands or essentially change their lesson plans. Public lands are our birthright and are not meant to be privatized or drilled at.
Featured image taken of Cal Poly students at the public Avila Beach.