LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Privatizing more land is a short-sighted approach
State Rep. Steve Green wrote a letter of support of county commissioners who objected to the sale of private land to the state (Letters Jan 10). First, Mr. Green claims that state and federal land managers are part of our “overbearing agencies,” yet he fails to see the irony of a county agency instructing a private landowner to whom they can, or can’t, sell their land. Second, what Mr. Green, and his well-documented bias against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, intentionally fails to remind you, the public, is that public lands “owned by the state” are actually owned by everyone. The DNR is merely the agency charged with managing that land for the benefit of the public. Mr. Green also fails to mention that counties are, in fact, paid in lieu of taxes for those public lands by the state or federal government.
Additionally, state lands generate tremendous financial benefit to the state and the counties in which they are located. State public forest land alone generates $17 billion of economic impact and more than 60,000 jobs. Hunting, fishing, hiking, ATVs, and other outdoor recreation generate another $6 billion in expenditures and economic impact annually. The economics are important, but so is the ecological value provided to the more than 300 species that live on public land; including more than 20 game species. Nearly 30 percent of all Minnesota deer hunters only ever hunt public land and, as so many of us here in Minnesota describe ourselves as avid hunters, we know how important access to public lands is for teaching the next generation how to hunt. When we sell off, or prevent the purchase of, public lands by the state, only the wealthy benefit. This moves us towards the European model of pay-to-hunt, which is something the North American model was specifically developed to avoid.
As participation in many outdoor activities continues to decline, we want to remove barriers, not add more. Privatizing more land by allowing counties or local governments to control who buys land is a short-sighted approach, reducing the chances of maintaining the high quality natural environment that’s become a major attraction in Minnesota. We should encourage our resource agencies to maintain the public land we have, and encourage them to strategically add to public holdings.
Our hockey team is literally named the Minnesota Wild; let’s keep Minnesota that way for future generations.
Brian Hiller, Bemidji, is Associate Professor of Biology, Wildlife Specialist, at Bemidji State University.