WashPost Notes Western States Want to Own, Control More National Park Land

Western states where a majority of land is owned by the federal government were disproportionately harmed by the closure of national park lands during the partial government shutdown. Local economies in those states suffered as small businesses dependent on tourism to those parks took a big hit. Some of those states kicked in donations to reopen a few parks during the shutdown, you may recall.

Washington Post GovBeat blogger Niraj Chokshi noticed how some of those states have passed laws calling on the federal government to turn over control of "millions of acres of federal public lands to the states," and how some Western politicians believe that the shutdown bolsters their case. Chokshi's October 15 story was picked up for print by Post editors, but the 13-paragraph item was buried on page A18 in Friday's paper.

Chokshi turned to the liberal Center for American Progress, which scoffed that state legislation in Utah was a "losing battle that amounts to little more than political grandstanding." He did close, however, by quoting from an op-ed in which Utah's Attorney General John Swallow (along with his assistant AG Anthony Rampton) insisted that "The long-term public health, safety and economic welfare of Utahns depend on" Utah having "an enhanced role in it citizens' affairs and in the uses of its land."

Kudos to the Post for baby steps towards covering often-overlooked issues of federalism like this one. One imagines, however, that if the Western states impacted so disproportionately by the shutdown had been reliably "blue" Democratic ones that the Post, and the national media writ large, would be much more sympathetic to the idea of turning over more management of federal lands to those states.

Above: a graphic displaying federal land ownership in the United States, as draw from screen grab of Chokshi's GovBeat blog post.

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