President Donald Trump is following through on campaign promises to lessen the impact of federal government on the everyday lives of Americans—this time, by focusing on eliminating regulations that prohibit the free use of land owned by the federal government. This is wonderful news for hunters and fisherman, who saw their access to federal lands and waters diminished during the Obama administration.
On Sept. 15, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Order #3356, the second major shift towards more citizen access by the Trump administration. Zinke described the order as intended to “inform how best to enhance and expand public access to lands and waters administered by the [Interior] Department—lands and waters owned by all Americans—for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation.” Notice that phrase “lands and waters owned by all Americans,” which indicates a healthy respect for American citizens, who have every right to hunt and fish on federal lands.
Other items of note within the order are a deadline of 30 days to identify specific actions that would increase accessibility to public lands, while looking for ways to increase participation in hunting and fishing opportunities.
This is wonderful news for hunters and fisherman, who saw their access to federal lands and waters diminished during the Obama administration.This order was necessitated by actions taken during the final weeks of Obama’s second term, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) utilized rulemaking to place limits on subsistence hunting and fishing in Alaska. The state sued, citing the “appearance of a reinterpretation of federal law” that would result in what they termed heavy restrictions.
In March, Congress utilized the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, issued a press statement at the time, “This CRA ensures that the role of states will not be supplanted by the federal government. States are the experts and more than capable of responsibly managing wildlife. If the federal government supersedes the state of Alaska, it could happen to any one of the lower 48 states.”
That last-minute action wasn’t the only infraction prompting Zinke to act. It has been of concern to conservatives and limited government types for some time that the federal government owns one-third of the land mass of the United States. Cordoning off large swaths of land from the public is the type of command-and-control centralized government the nation’s founders opposed.
Of course, these departments are necessary and do benefit the populace through their maintenance and conservation of our natural resources. But there is room for the government to get out of the way, allowing citizens the natural use and care of lands by encouraging their participation. Citizen involvement could result in less monetary waste and a lowering of the backlog of maintenance, which is reported to be a staggering $12 billion dollars.
These agencies are well funded—the Bureau of Land Management has a budget of $1.1 billion; the Forest Service, $5.5 billion; Park Service, $3 billion; and Fish and Wildlife Service, $1.7 billion—yet have been plagued with persistent accounting errors that hamper accuracy in even the simplest requests, such as how much land is currently under federal control.
Trump and Zinke deserve kudos for taking this cleanup operation head-on instead of passing it on to a successive administration.According to a report by the Heritage Foundation, “A Congressional Research Service analyst found that a 1996 GAO study did not use a General Services Administration analysis of the amount of land each agency managed because of discrepancies between the GSA's numbers and those reported by the other four agencies.”
In other words, they couldn’t tell you what they manage because none of them knew! You don’t find that kind of ineptitude on privately owned lands, because people are taxed into keeping close track.
Trump and Zinke deserve kudos for tackling this cleanup operation head-on instead of passing it on to a successive administration. Hunters, fishermen and taxpayers alike can look forward to more access and better operational efficiencies as a result; and that sounds like freedom to me.
Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force veteran, Emmy-nominated TV personality and host of nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right,” based in St. Louis. She loves God and guns, and is a member of the NRA.