NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Transfer Federal Lands To The States

January 4, 1996

The federal government currently owns 47 percent of the land in the 11 westernmost of the lower 48 states. Much of this land in under the control of the Bureau of Land Management, and a recent study by a former Interior Department official suggests these lands should be turned over to the states.

  • The BLM loses money, despite the fact that these lands encompass 10 percent of the land area of the lower 48 states, 33 percent of the total coal reserves of the United States and 5 percent of the nation's oil and gas reserves.
  • Recent studies have shown that state land management compares favorably with the record of the federal government.
  • The states would have much wider leeway for experimentation in land management approaches, compared to the rigid control now exercised by the BLM.

Political opposition to such land transfers could be overcome, the study's author suggests, by giving ranchers holding grazing permits a property right in their permits, block-granting funds now spent on the BLM to the states (to be phased out over a number of years) and requiring the states to continue conforming to federal environmental regulations.

Source: Robert H. Nelson, "How and Why to Transfer BLM Lands to the States," January 1996, Competitive Enterprise Institute, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1250, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 331-1010.


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