New study makes case for state control of federal lands

The Property and Environment Research Center is a national and even international leader on applying free market principles to pressing environmental issues. With the growing controversy over federal land management issues throughout the American West, PERC took a closer look at the different ways in which federal and state lands are managed. Their new paper is called “Divided Lands.”

* The federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.

* The states examined in this study earn an average of $14.51 for every dollar spent on state trust land management. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management generate only 73 cents in return for every dollar spent on federal land management.

* On average, states generate more revenue per dollar spent than the federal government on a variety of land management activities, including timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation management.

* These outcomes are the result of the different statutory, regulatory, and administrative frameworks that govern state and federal lands. States have a fiduciary responsibility to generate revenues from state trust lands, while federal land agencies face overlapping and conflicting regulations and often lack a clear mandate.

* If federal lands were transferred, states could likely earn much greater revenues than the federal government. However, transfer proponents must consider how land management would have to change in order to generate those revenues under state control.

Legislation has been introduced in the New Mexico Legislature to study federal lands management in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Foundation also has a paper available which details just how much better New Mexico could manage its federal lands than Washington from a financial perspective.