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Southeast Federation
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- Land Access Issues -
"WE CAN FIGHT BACK!"

 
“WE CAN FIGHT BACK”
by
John Wright
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation Committee
Current Mississippi State Representative for the American Lands Access Association Inc.
 

   I know that many of you have heard or learned through the news media about all the lands that were recently added to preservation categories.  The total for the last eight years alone was 5,749,000 acres.  Add to this potential loss of vast areas for “rock-hounding” the fact that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requires permits in many areas, plan to increase the areas where permits are required, and are considering raising the fee for permits as much as three fold.  The BLM’s counterparts in some states have followed suite for state owned lands or are currently working on legislative initiative and agendas along similar lines.  Paleontologist, archeologist, and environmentalist, plus a host of other groups are diligently working to limit access to public lands and restrict the removal of mineral, fossils, or artifacts.  Even the United Nations with their designated “World Heritage Sites” is proposing the taking of private and public lands under Agenda 21 and the “Wildlands Project”.   I could continue for several more pages of graphic details about the increasing restrictions we face, but I think that you have gotten the general idea that we are, to coin a phrase, “loosing ground”.

   The reason for the dilemma that we face, is for the most part our own fault, as we did not make our wishes known.  Many times we have no idea that these developments are even taking place or worst, it involves an area of little or no interest and we could care less.  While it may not be happening in your back yard or favorite areas for outings, be aware it could very well be just a matter of time.  I know that your first inclination is to think that this situation is much too big for you to do anything about.  Actually, if you are informed and willing, there is a lot you can do.

   Keeping up to date and informed about the proposed changes in land usage and accessibility is not an easy task.  Many   agencies and governing bodies at local, state, and federal levels do not always keep the public informed about plans that could ultimately restrict access to public lands.  When they do let you know, normally through public hearings,
the plans are usually complete and the “mind set” is to prevail.  Often changes are made without any prior notification or public input and it is not surprising that this is done on purpose to prevent public interference. 

   I find that one of the best ways to keep up to date is by membership in the American Lands Access Association.  The officers and members are all “Rock-hounds” and share the same interest as most of us.  They are not paid employees but dedicated volunteers who frequently use their own funds to help keep the operation functioning.  I am constantly amazed at the degree of professionalism indicated by information they “dig up” and publish in the ALAA Newsletter or send to members via email.  These are the experts that can suggest methods for you to use if lands are being threatened in your area.    

   If an issue involving public lands is of particular importance to our hobby and has not been fully resolved, the ALAA will often suggest that you let officials in the appropriate agency, your state, or federal legislators know how you feel. They even publish sample letters that you may copy or use as a guide to write your own.    

   The ALAA is the only organized effort I know of that is fighting to reserve our rights to have access to public lands we own and support with our tax dollars.  As members of the American Lands Access Association, “We Can Fight Back” against those who would deny public lands to you, limit your activities on private lands, and restrict your rights to own minerals, fossils, and artifacts.  I belong and I am proud to say that my “Club” belongs.  Yes, your club or society may join the ALAA without jeopardizing your non-profit tax-exempt status.  



John Wright is a Registered Professional Geologist, a published scientific author, a member of Sigma Xi (the scientific research society), a two term past president of his local club, served seven years as the SFMS Mississippi State Director, and a member of several SFMS committees and past 2nd VP, 1st VP, and President of SFMS.  His forte is carving.

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