Should federally-owned land be transferred back to state control? That is what presidential candidate Ted Cruz believes, and that message is now louder than ever. Cruz recently made a push to advocate for state control of public land in what some observers are calling a bid to differentiate himself from Donald Trump. However, Cruz’s stance on federally-owned land, in one instance even calling it a “historical accident,” has polarized sportsmen and women.
“It’s not right, it doesn’t make sense,” Cruz said at a recent meeting in Boise State University in Idaho. “We need to transfer that land back to the states or even better, back to the people.”
Meanwhile in Nevada, Cruz ran an ad attacking Donald Trump for his support of federally-owned land last month.
“Donald Trump wants to keep big government in charge,” Cruz said in the ad. “That’s ridiculous. You the people of Nevada, not Washington bureaucrats, should be in charge of your own land.”
You can see that ad below:
However, some hunters are concerned with what will happen to that land if it is transferred to state, or even private control. Many hunting organizations, such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, are opposed to transferring public lands to state ownership since they say that federally-owned land, by definition, is already owned by the public. Opponents of the land transfer also argue that many states simply cannot afford to manage the vast swaths of land currently under federal control. Those states would be forced to either raise taxes or sell the land to private owners, restricting it from public use.
In Nevada though, the home state of rancher Cliven Bundy and his standoff with officials from the Bureau of Land Management two years ago, there is fierce support of reclaiming land from federal control. Political spectators expect that the issue could be one that wins Cruz supporters from Trump’s camp, especially since Trump has clarified his position as being firmly in support of federally-owned land.
“The issue is not that so much of the state is public land; it is how that land is managed,” Trump told the Reno Gazette-Journal last month. “The Department of Energy and the Department of Interior must find ways to work with state and local governments to make sure that public lands are used to the best purpose.”
Trump is the only Republican front-runner to support federally-owned land. GOP candidate Marco Rubio, seen as many as the party establishment candidate, also called for a “top-down review” of all federal land and the eventual transfer of ownership to states. The leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, advocated instead for strengthening public lands and increased collaboration between government agencies.