By Liz Archuleta
With the start of the New Year, the Republican led House of Representatives, changed the rules to make it easier for Congress to transfer federal public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or other federal agencies, to state or local government agencies. The new rule basically suggests that federal lands have no value.
I’m saddened to learn that some members of Congress think that our nation’s public lands – OUR public lands—have no value. Our public lands belong to every American regardless of where they live. These public lands are our common heritage. It is also land that generates millions of visitors nationally and internationally, and are integral to the tourist economy of many counties, regions, and cities.
In my county – Coconino County, the Grand Canyon alone hosted over 4.7 million visitors spending over a half billion dollars and supported over 7800 jobs. The Grand Canyon and all of our public lands need to remain in public hands, so that our children and future generations, have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the treasures of our great nation.
Since I can remember, I have always been taught that our federal public lands, and the natural resources within these lands, are precious heirlooms of our country that have been handed down from generation to generation for all Americans and visitors to enjoy.
As a native of Northern Arizona, I’m privileged to have the forest in my backyard and to able to drive to the Grand Canyon in a little over an hour. Other national parks, national monuments and federal forest service lands surround me. The beauty of these lands is not only breathtaking but is an important part of the quality of life that we enjoy in Coconino County.
Imagine being able to on any given day, take a walk or hike on the San Francisco Peaks or to seasonally cut and gather firewood from the forest. Think about being able to hunt and fish on the land to provide food for your family. This is something that generations of my family and other Latino families have done throughout their lifetimes. One of my fondest memories as a child was going out into the forest with my parents and siblings to gather pinecones and hunt for the most perfect Christmas tree. After spending the day in the forest looking at several trees, we would come to agreement on the perfect tree by imagining how it would look with ornaments, tinsel and lights. Our Christmas Tree cutting adventure would be an all-day outing that included my Dad teaching us about the different plants and trees and how to be good stewards of our public lands and natural resources. My Dad taught us to appreciate the beauty and abundance of the land around us and to not take it for granted.
Our federal lands are our birthright. Call your members of Congress today and let them know that you value our public lands and are against the giving them away.
Photo Credit: Thomas Castelazo/Wikimedia Commons