by Holly L. Fretwell
R Street
April 01, 2014
Policy Study
In the western United States, nearly half the land is owned and controlled by the federal government, compared with only four percent in the East. At least five western states (Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming) have passed legislation insisting the federal government divest its lands in their state, and others are considering similar bills. Proponents argue that decentralization would place control in the hands of those with the most to gain or lose from effective land stewardship. They also note that legislation passed when the states joined the union typically included clauses providing that the federal government would extinguish its title to any unappropriated lands. The consequences of extensive federal landholding include limited revenue for state coffers, declining recreation access, increased restrictions on commodity production and, in some cases, poor environmental stewardship. Federal land management must be restructured so the true value of public resources can be realized.

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