A number of citizens on Monday urged the Montezuma County Commission – which has long supported transferring Forest Service and BLM lands to the states – to keep such lands in federal hands.
With Republicans controlling Congress and the presidency, the land-transfer movement is expected to gain momentum. Critics worry that cash-strapped states would sell off such lands to balance their budgets. On Monday, a crowd of local residents voiced support for keeping the lands federal. Phyllis Mains spoke about the importance of tourism and outdoor recreation to the local economy. Jeanne Becker said public lands are the backbone of outdoor recreation. Mike Woodrow questioned how the states could administer such lands without raising taxes. Ole Bye said locals are getting “a pretty sweet deal” living near open lands supported by taxpayers nationwide. But Commissioner Keenan Ertel said it’s a misconception that if public lands are switched to state control “it’s all going to be sold off and bartered.” He said the lands would just be under “a different management company.” The commissioners say the county doesn’t get enough money from public lands. They recently passed a resolution saying that if the federal government acquires any more local private property, it should offset that with exchange of public lands to the private sector.