Our Languishing Public Lands

Opponents to the Transfer of Public Lands would like you to believe that this is a new idea, promoted by right-wing extremists who somehow stand to personally benefit from the transfer. Nothing could be further from the truth. But this article does a good job of explaining some of the problems that have perpetuated these failed policies…

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewSaying that it is a “dysfunctional system” may be the understatement of the year. — jtl, 419

via American Lands Council

In 2012, an excellent article by Robert H. Nelson A Handbook for Ranch Managers was published by Policy Review, a publication of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. This article clearly sets forth the predicament we find our public lands in, how it got here and what he feels must be done to remedy this serious problem.

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualOpponents to the Transfer of Public Lands would like you to believe that this is a new idea, promoted by right-wing extremists who somehow stand to personally benefit from the transfer. Nothing could be further from the truth. But this article does a good job of explaining some of the problems that  Combat Shooter's HandbookReconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps InstituteThe Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfitshave perpetuated these failed policies, including some states’ desires to have the federal money without the federal control. We know that only a transfer of the public lands, with all of the responsibilities and benefits, will allow states the full sovereignty that is required for stability.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3) Your three minute assignment for today is to review the following excerpts from this report and send them on to your acquaintances. For those of you with some extra passion, I encourage you to read the entire report (19 easy-to-read pages).
Little did Mr. Nelson know how prophetic he was when in 2012 he made the statement, “The final details will have to emerge from the normal give and take of politics. But let the discussions begin.” The American Lands Council is happy to have brought this discussion to the forefront of the public awareness and we look forward to continuing our campaign to educate every citizen about the necessity of the Transfer of Public Lands to all willing western states.
(Following are excerpts from “Our Languishing Public Lands” by Robert H. Nelson


Like a number of other applications of progressive ideas (regulation of interstate commerce, for example, by the Interstate Commerce Commission), the public lands have failed the test of time. Management of the lands has been neither scientific nor efficient.
Public Land Waste
On these public lands, the most important decisions typically concern matters such as the number of cows that will be allowed to graze, building of local roads, levels of timber harvests, leasing of land for oil and gas drilling, building and maintaining hiking trails, prevention and fighting of forest fires, determining areas that will be available to off-road recreational vehicles, and other such routine land management details. Outside the West, such matters are either private or are state and local responsibilities paid for by state and local governments. In the rural West, the federal government often pays — and also decides.

From Economic to Ecological Goals

The 2001 Forest Service financial analysis described above also detailed the trends during the 1990s in the economic “present net value” (pnv) derived from all national forest outputs. As the Forest Service reported, the “all resources pnv” for the whole national forest system — covering all the forms of use — fell from more than one billion dollars in total values realized in 1991 to about $300 million in 1998. Most of this sharp economic decline was due to the precipitous drop in timber program pnv, but the abandonment of former timber sale activities did not yield any new gains in the pnv of recreation or other uses to balance things out.

The Northern Spotted Owl

It was not only the federal government whose revenues were affected. Traditionally, the federal government has transferred 25 percent of the gross timber sale revenues to the states where the sales occurred. The states then transferred the funds to the specific local counties for support of schools and other purposes. The drastic falloff in timber sales in the 1990s thus threatened the counties with large losses in federal transfers of timber revenues.

Few Revenues and High Costs

…the ultimate net cost of national forest management borne by American taxpayers in 2010 was around $4 billion — this on lands representing nearly ten percent of the land area of the United States and often containing valuable natural resources.

Our Languishing Public Lands

Thus, even as it has officially endorsed a new agency way of thinking that seeks to deliberately minimize human management actions, Forest Service personnel numbers and total spending have not fallen at all. The Forest Service had 35,000 permanent employees in 2010, more than the 33,000 it had in 1990. Total spending specifically for national forest management purposes remained steady around $1.5 billion throughout the 1980s, about the same level as it is today. But total Forest Service spending soared from levels of around $3 billion per year during the 1980s to more than $6 billion in 2010.

The “Fire Service”

A large part of the explanation for the higher Forest Service budget is the greatly increased spending for forest fire prevention and suppression. Ecosystem management may have been the new official management philosophy but some wags have recently suggested that the Forest Service should now be renamed the “Fire Service.” Instead of minimizing human impacts as sought by ecosystem management, the emphasis shifted from timber harvesting to firefighting. (Such is the law of unintended consequences…

A Dysfunctional System
Admittedly, the large economic and environmental failures on the national forests were not altogether the fault of the Forest Service. Even if it had wanted to, it probably would have been unable to address adequately the growing fire problem. An unwieldy system of environmental and land use planning mandated by Congress in the 1970s, a proliferation of law suits and resulting judicial oversight of management and policy decisions, increased congressional and White House direct political intervention, and other factors have created a dysfunctional federal decision making process for the national forests.
The Benefits of Federal Dependence
All this was admittedly the latest installment in a longstanding western history. Since the federal government decided 100 years ago in the progressive era to maintain a permanent dominant presence in the rural West, the region has often complained bitterly of federal mismanagement. But federal management has also meant federal money, and lots of it. When push came to shove, the West has always chosen the money over steps to break free from federal control. More than 50 years ago Bernard DeVoto uttered perhaps the truest statement ever made with respect to the public lands and the rural West; the actual western view of the place of the federal government, DeVoto explained, is: “Go away and give us more money.”

Mounting Pressures for Change
Professor Sally Fairfax of the University of California, Berkeley, America’s foremost political scientist in studying the public lands, observes that the creation of the national forests established “a relationship between the national government and the western states that is usefully described as colonial.”

A Plan
A first thought might be simply to sell off much of the public lands and apply the large sale revenues (potentially hundreds of billions of dollars) to reducing the national debt — as a business corporation might sell off its money losing divisions. At one time, that might have been a good idea. But too many years have now passed, creating implicit historic entitlements that will have to be recognized. Ranchers, for example, cannot simply be evicted from their historic allotments — formally established in the 1930s following the enactment of the Taylor Grazing Act — to make way for new higher bidders.
American Lands Council

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View

edited by

Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume

Is now available in both PAPERBACK and Kindle

BookCoverImageMurray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”

This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.

The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.

As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.

However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.

The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.

The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.


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About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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2 Responses to Our Languishing Public Lands

  1. Rich says:

    I was working in Washington from 1979 to 1984 as CEO of the most free-market-oriented lobbying group ever (now defunct). When we tried in the opening years of the Reagan Administration to get states and cattlemen’ organizations (this was pre-check off so the ANCA was far less well-funded, hence slightly less arrogant) interested in a move to privatize federal lands – which in those heady might have gained some traction – the industry was uninterested.

    “Ranchers don’t want (and shouldn’t) be forced to outbid environmentalists or other rich people to PURCHASE the public lands to which they have grazing rights. They merely want greater control, fewer restrictions, and, of course, lower fees.” That last cause was the primary political issue that built the ANCA originally; the secondary issue being restriction of beef imports – in particular from Argentina or Australia. And no states were interested in transfers.

    When we tried, with the encouragement of few (of the very few) real limited-government types in the Reagan Administration, to foster a dialog about how we could privatize at least some federal lands, such as, say, maybe devising special terms or access to existing permit holders, we were flatly rebuffed. There was just no visible political support of any kind for such a movement, from western state governments or from any association of cattlemen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sad. I think that era (late 70s – early 80s) was a great awakening for public lands ranchers. It was known as the “Sagebrush Rebellion” and, as Range Task Force Leader at the University of Arizona, I was in the middle of it.

      Actually, it began with NEPA 1974 which commanded that, if the uS government decides to take any kind of action that might impact the environment, it must conduct a environmental impact analysis and publish an environmental impact statement (EIS).

      This didn’t really get underway until the late 70s when the BLM and the USFS decided to do one humongous EIS for the impact of “grazing” on their lands. They got sued by a coalition of lil ol lades in white tennis shoes, friends of the earth, et al and they lost.

      The court ruled that they had to do “site specific” EIS’s but didn’t bother to define “site specific. So, the uSFS settled on doing them by National Forest and the BLM decided to do them by allotment.

      So finally the process got underway and it was a real mess. They (BLM) would send out some wet behind the ears, recently graduated, “range con” to assess the carrying capacity of some rancher’s allotment. With only one year’s worth of data, most of these were coming in with 50% (or more) cuts in animal numbers permitted.

      Public lands ranches do not sell by the acre. They sell by the Animal Unit. At the time, the going market rate was around $1,500 per AU. It doesn’t take a CPA to figure out, if you had a 1,000 AU allotment and it suddenly was reduced to a 500 AU allotment by the stroke of a government bureaucrat’s pen, you have just had $0.75 million in net worth wiped out.

      This is what prompted the State legislatures in NM and AZ to fund Range Task Forces to get the mess headed off. It was also a wake up call that pretty much changed their minds about State vs. Federal ownership.

      That is…up until the State of New Mexico passed new laws that made it as, if not more, ominous as the Feds and 30 years later, things are still a mess. Well…whadaya expect from a government job? Sigh…


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