This month, the Montezuma County commissioners voted to support the American Lands Council, whose mission is to transfer federal land to the states.
They county agreed to pay dues of $1,000 per year to become a supporting member of the council.
Commissioner James Lambert brought up the motion to join, and commissioner Larry Don Suckla agreed. Commissioner Keenan Ertel was absent.
Lambert is an ardent supporter of the Council’s goal for state ownership of forest service and BLM land.
“I feel it is the ultimate answer to the problems were having with the federal government,” he said. “The Constitution says the land should be transferred to state ownership.”
Eastern states have already done this, Lambert said, and he feels the Western states should follow.
“It does not meant it goes to private ownership,” he said. “It should go to the states who can manage them better. For example, we have large forest fires because there is no more logging, but the state could change that and get timber production going.”
But not everyone supports the move to join the American Lands Council.
Wade Foster told the commissioners it is a bad idea, calling it a “land grab.” He was critical of the Council’s claim that states could manage the land better.
“The website promises a lot that can’t happen,” Foster said. “In Colorado, we need to run a lottery just to keep our little state parks open.”
Foster says because federal lands are funded by the nation as a whole, managers have financial resources to do the job, and keep them open to the public.
He countered the claim that the lands won’t be privatized.
“Long-term leases would be de-facto privatization,” Foster said. “Imagine European-style estates at the head of the Dolores River. Imagine large industries with deep pockets claiming water rights.”
Responding to Foster during the public comment section, Dave Dove commended the commission for joining the fight to transfer federal lands to the states. He said state management of the land would open up more industry and improve the local economy.
“Right now the public land management is poor,” he said. “For example, as an archaeologist, I see BLM lands at risk for looting because there is no monitoring, such as along the Mesa Verde escarpment.”
Lambert said joining the Council encourages education and debate on the issue, something he says is needed locally. He hopes the council will come to the county for a presentation on their mission.
“Even in the East they are saying they should not be paying for the mismanagement of our federal lands,” Lambert said.
Foster dismissed the group’s intent as “short-sighted and foolhardy.”
“It’s downright unpatriotic to attempt to chisel away pieces of the priceless heritage of the people of the United States,” he said.