“Local communities face significant challenges due to poor federal land management policies and the existence of large swaths of federal land within their jurisdiction. The federal government can’t even manage the land it owns yet, each year the DC bureaucracy requests hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire more and more land. I support consolidating checkerboards and increasing access for recreational enthusiasts and sportsmen, but we have to do more to enjoy the best of what our public lands have to offer while also ensuring we aren't hamstringing counties at the same time," said Chairman Gosar.
The federal government is the largest landowner in the United States, controlling almost 1/3 of the entire land mass of the United States. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates the federal estate includes approximately 635 million acres.Over 90 percent of federal land is located in western states.
The vast majority of our federal lands were set aside with the understanding that they would be managed for multiple-use which would include grazing, recreation, conservation, and sensible natural resource development. However, numerous laws and regulations have been imposed that in many cases are unreasonable, burdensome and prevent multiple-use. Public lands that were once put to productive use have been locked up. Further, managing federal lands costs the American taxpayer tens of billions of dollars each year. Inexplicably, the federal government continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to acquire additional land. An area larger than the size of Florida has been added to the federal estate since Kennedy Administration.
One of the often overlooked effects of continued massive federal land ownership is the impact on public education in the West. In Arizona for example, less than 18 percent of land is privately held and taxable by state and local governments. In Garfield County, Utah 96.7% of the acreage is federal and state land. The county is so strapped for revenues that it has one music teacher for the entire county that travels 200 miles every day.
To combat the challenges associated with federal government's massive landownership, Western Caucus Members continue to lead the charge to ensure full-funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs. Our members have also passed legislation to consolidate checkerboards of land, reduce the federal footprint, as well as increase public access and multiple-use.