Historians say that knowing the past prevents us from making the same mistakes made by our forebearers.

When Oregon became a state, the United States government ceded two sections of every township to the state to use for schools. Unfortunately, the legislature in 1887 decided to sell the school lands. Had they kept those lands and used the timber harvest and grazing fees wisely, charging the going rate, the schools would be financed in perpetuity. Unfortunately, unscrupulous officials sold the lands at minimum prices to private entities, therefore taking them out of the public domain.

Now we have groups of people who want all federal land managed by the state. Their argument is that the state would take better care of the lands than the Forest Service or the BLM presently take care of them. According to Tim Smith (Dec. 21 Chieftain), the state would manage the lands efficiently and fires would not be a problem.

Where would the state get the money to manage the BLM and Forest Service lands? Would the state sell off those lands in order to finance the land management program? Would the entities that buy the lands allow grazing? Would the supposedly private enterprise new land owners charge less than the federal government now charges to lease grazing lands? Would they care more about stewardship of the land than about their immediate private financial gain?

Smith apparently believes that the public lands should be under the purview of their “users.” I am hereby claiming as a citizen of Oregon and the United States of America and a member of the public that the public lands belong to me just as much as they belong to him or any “user.” The public lands ought to be for the benefit of the public, not solely for the benefit of the “users.”

If the state should become the manager of the forest and BLM lands, they should not be sold to private entities and the fees for their use should be adjusted to the going rate. All of the income from the lands should go to finance education.

Evelyn Swart


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