We’re working to keep America’s parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and other public lands in public hands.
Public lands belong to all Americans
If you’ve ever visited a national park, hunted in a national forest, pitched a tent in a Bureau of Land Management campground or bird-watched at a wildlife refuge, you’ve taken advantage of some of America’s public lands. Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and other conservationists worked tirelessly to ensure America could responsibly enjoy and benefit from public lands.
Unfortunately, groups like the American Lands Council and American Legislative Exchange Council, billionaire backers like the Koch Brothers and extreme state and county politicians want to seize or “transfer” America’s public lands and sell them to private natural resource extraction companies and the very wealthy.
For many of us in the Pacific Northwest, this is both a wake-up call and a call to action. Public lands—lands that provide vital habitat, priceless heritage and should be open to all Americans for sustainable use and enjoyment—are under attack. Pivotal environmental laws, policies and agencies are being threatened by both President Trump and radical Members of Congress. Powerful special interests and extremists are still working to “transfer”, or privatize, our public places. A recent national monuments “review” continues a disturbing trend of places once thought permanently preserved, even sacred, potentially on the auction block.
Outside Magazine breaks down the different types of American public lands, and the best ways to access and enjoy them.
News on our work protecting public lands
- August 2019: National Wildlife Federation Affiliates urge Congress to demand Interior revoke acting head of Bureau of Land Management
- March 2019: Thank you letter to Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers
- February 2019: Response to House passage of public lands package
- February 2019: Statement on passage of Natural Resources Management Act S.47
- November 2018: New poll shows 73 percent of Washingtonians want Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorized, funded
- February 2018: Public land transfer provisions removed from Senate Bill 6140
- December 2017: Defending public lands in Washington and beyond
- July 2017: Our comments in support of Hanford Reach and other national monuments
Public lands support healthy ecosystems and healthy economies
America’s public lands not only protect our history, wildlife habitat and natural beauty, they also draw visitors from across the country and around the world. More than 305 million people visited national parks in 2016, and even more hiked, camped, fished, watched wildlife and enjoyed our other shared public lands, like national forests and wildlife refuges. These places are vital to millions of small businesses in nearby communities, and are an important part of our nation’s economy. It’s important we keep public lands in public hands!
States do not have the funding to manage American public lands operated by the federal government. The costs of wildfire response alone would overrun most state agencies. Numerous studies have shown that proposals to “transfer” these public lands to states or counties not only lack no legal merit, but if enacted would quickly take lands from the public and put them into private hands.
Studies have also found rural counties in the Western U.S. have better economic measures when they have more federal lands. These counties saw faster growth in population, employment, personal income and per-capita income. The outdoor recreation industry alone generates 6.1 million jobs a year, and $646 billion in consumer spending nationwide. In Washington state, nearly 200,000 jobs are supported directly or indirectly by outdoor recreation—more than our state’s technology or aerospace industries.
Extremist propaganda may try to make rural residents believe otherwise, but public lands are undeniably good for their communities and economies. This significant economic activity depends on protected and accessible public lands.
Keeping public lands in public hands
Public lands provide opportunities for people of all means and backgrounds to hike, ski, camp, fish, hunt, watch wildlife and much more, and without this public access, these opportunities would be relegated to private, wealthy interests. We have a responsibility to protect that legacy and preserve our public lands for future generations.
American public lands such as wildlife refuges, national parks, and national forests are a key piece of our natural heritage and the birthright of all Americans, regardless of their backgrounds, affluence or where they live. We’re working hard to keep them public!