Western Land and Resource Management
The American West is a land of wonder and opportunity. The West is a destination for those seeking the serenity of the outdoors as well as home to many families that work the land, whether ranching, mining minerals or developing renewable or fossil energy. As in so many other parts of our economy, the federal government’s role in managing these resources is overreaching, priorities are misplaced, and it is harming people in the region.
People in the West feel the impact of federal decision-making more acutely than those in the rest of the nation. Of the 635 million acres owned and managed by the federal government, 582 million acres — 90 percent — are in the West, including Alaska. In the 11 most Western states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, the federal government controls nearly half the land (see map below). For instance, over 80 percent of Nevada is federally-owned. By contrast, the federal government owns 4 percent of all the remaining 37 states further east.
Increasingly, the federal government does not treat Western states, local governments, tribes and land owners as equal partners. Under the Obama Administration, federal land management is characterized by restrictive regulations, more land use constraints, more land acquisition, more “analysis paralysis,” and more “sue and settle”-driven policies.
This relentless overregulation has undermined the trust between Western communities and the federal government. It must be restored. Washington, DC needs to acknowledge that people who live on the land in the West are the best stewards of the land. Federal holdings should be valuable recreational and economic assets, not a liability to economic freedom and growth.
I will fix the relationship between the federal government and the West. I propose four principles, backed up by specific policies, to rebuild trust.