Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of central Washington appeared in Wenatchee Wednesday to state his case for transferring federal land to states. He was joined by Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop who’s also up for re-election.
Federal land transfer has been a growing discussion in Congress in recent years. Standoffs in Nevada in 2014 and at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year have brought the discussion to the forefront.
“Not every piece of federal land is going to be returned to the states tomorrow," Newhouse said. “But there are instances where maybe it makes sense, maybe the state can do a better job from right here managing these lands versus folks that are 3,000 miles away.”
About 100 people came to listen and ask questions: back country horsemen and hikers, a few ranchers, and representatives from the National Rifle Association.
Bernie Stratton drove more than 200 miles east from Chehalis, Washington, for the forum. He is the Public Lands Chair for the Back Country Horsemen of Washington.
“I don’t really see the advantage of the state, because there’s limited dollars on both sides, basically,” Stratton said.
He was joined by fellow horseman, Jeff Chapman, an assessor in Jefferson County on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
“We like the idea of a discussion on what’s working better on state lands than federal lands and vice versa and have them, work together on common management,” Chapman said.
During the forum, Newhouse and Bishop, the chair the House Natural Resource Committee, addressed questions about funding limitations, concerns about thorough consultation with various land user groups and wildfire management.