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King County Passes Motion Opposing Giveaway Of America's Public Lands to State And Private Interests

Washington's most populous county is the first in the state to join Western movement against state takeover of national public lands.

SEATTLE – The King County Council has passed a motion opposing efforts to transfer public lands to the states. The motion proclaims that federal public lands are a vital part of America’s heritage as well as a significant contributor to the county’s vibrant economy.

The United States has more than 600 million acres of public lands, including national forests, parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and public domain lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Of this total, more than 12 million acres are in Washington, including approximately 360,000 acres in King County. The vast majority of federal land in King County is Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“The motion reflects the overwhelming preference of King County residents that our nation’s public lands continue to be owned by all Americans,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “Places like Mt. Rainer National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are part of who we are; it would be immoral to sell off these places.” Krupp also noted pragmatic reasons for maintaining federal ownership of public lands. “The state simply lacks the expertise and the budget to manage millions of acres of additional public land. One bad fire season would be a disaster for the state budget,” he said.

King County Council Motion 2017-0050 recognizes the importance of public lands in providing:

  • habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife, including chinook salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout, deer, elk, and bald eagles;
  • a multitude of recreation opportunities, including camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, hunting and birdwatching;
  • clean water for municipal water supplies; and
  • approximately 1,400 jobs for the region.

While the argument demanding that public lands be handed over to the states is loudest in the Interior West states of Utah and Nevada, the effort has a foothold in Washington. In the current session of the Washington State Legislature, six members of the House of Representatives introduced the Transfer of Public Lands Act, HB 1103. That bill demands that by the end of 2017 the U.S. transfer to Washington title to nearly all U.S. Forest Service- and Bureau of Land Management-administered public lands in the state that are not formally designated as national wilderness or recreation areas.

King County is the first county in Washington to formally oppose transferring public lands to the states. County governments in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and Wyoming have passed motions or resolutions opposing such transfers.


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