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Report: Public Lands Transfer Group Loses County Members

County memberships in a group working to transfer public lands to states are on the decline. (Council of State Governments)
County memberships in a group working to transfer public lands to states are on the decline. (Council of State Governments)
October 24, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – County memberships in the American Lands Council, a national group working to transfer publicly owned lands to states, have dropped by as much as 45 percent, according to an investigation by the Western Values Project.

Chris Saeger, Western Values Project director, suspects the drop in membership reflects the ALC's declining influence in Western states.

"Things are not looking good for folks like the American Lands Council and the Bundy folks, and others who are advocating for the transfer of federal public lands to states,” Saeger said.

Saeger referenced the group currently on trial for occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. He pointed to a recent report by the Conference of Western Attorneys General, which concluded that lawsuits petitioning the transfer of federal lands to states are unlikely to succeed.

According to its website, the ALC recently met at an undisclosed location in Salt Lake City to discuss strategies going forward. The group did not respond to requests for comment.

The battle over who controls federal lands is far from over, Saeger said, adding that out-of-state funders may still be able to keep the ALC's doors open. He said keeping national lands open and accessible for all Americans to hunt, fish, hike and camp drives a multi-billion-dollar recreation economy.

"If you lose that because those lands are ultimately sold off to powerful special interests,” Saeger warned, "then you lose a very significant chunk of the outdoor economy and, more importantly, our way of life."

Last year, the ALC removed from its website a list of counties that pay annual dues to the organization. The Western Values Project filed formal information requests to the 53 counties formerly listed, and found almost half are no longer members.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT