| 03.18.2018

Blue shows through — The future of the Western U.S. may be bluer than expected


The future of the United States is changing, shifting the scales of how our nation and its resources will be viewed and used.

The Western U.S. has traditionally been a bred and born republican area of the country for most of its history. The small populations and large swathes of land that were untamable and uninhabitable caused the fledgling states to become overwhelmed in terms of legislation and law-making.

The past two centuries have witnessed the West change and morph slowly into an economic powerhouse with a population that cannot be ignored. The West Coast especially has amassed high-density population centers, changing the way the Western states are legislated.

As cities increase and gain more power over the rural areas, it looks for places to escape the concrete jungle. Large national parks, national forests, reserves and preserves close to urban centers serve an excellent chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

The public lands that are used by so many are protected and preserved federally — however, it’s not free. The services that need to happen cost large amounts of money, time, resources and people to implement proper planning and management.

These services are paid for with citizens’ tax dollars, along with many other public services across the nation. The more Republican a state tends to lean, there tends to be fewer taxes and therefore less federally funded services throughout the community.

The governing party is about to take the highest office in the land, promising to cut taxes for everyone and cut spending where it’s not needed. That could mean that “non-priority” natural resource funding could be out the window. However, things could become quite the opposite with an increase in the budget for public lands across the board.

On the other end of the spectrum, Democratic states are accustomed to larger tax programs, and even larger public infrastructure. The more tax money available the more tax-funded programs can do, and that is no different with natural resources and public lands than any U.S. public service.

As people migrate toward large urban centers, especially on the West Coast, the cities become more dependent on public services, and lean more toward the blue end of the scale.

With such a vast population moving west, and so many taking part in the outstanding recreation opportunities in the region, the funding for programs that improve and maintain these opportunities will increase, whether by choice or by necessity.

Time will tell how the future will unfold. The choices that we make now will be the deciding factor of our most extensive resource.

Spencer Colvin can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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