During the government shutdown in late 2013, the federal government closed down many public venues, much to the dismay of the citizens. One particularly egregious incident involved the shuttering of a parking lot at Mount Vernon, the former home of George Washington, a privately owned and privately funded property. These incidents have led many to question why the federal government owns so much land, to be used as political pawns according to their whims.
In response, in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County has introduced a bill (HB 16) to consider transferring ownership of the Shenandoah National Park to the state of Virginia. As Marshall explains in an email sent out this morning, “My bill would create a commission to evaluate the possibility of bringing Shenandoah National Park back under Virginia’s control. The commission ‒ which would be bicameral, bipartisan, and temporary ‒ would take a hard look at the feasibility of reacquiring Shenandoah National Park from the federal government, estimate the costs of the transaction, and work with Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources to develop an annual operating budget for the park.”
Personally, I am very much in favor of this proposal. With the exception of parcels needed on behalf of national security, the federal government has no good claim to own or administer Virginia land. Incidents like the one mentioned above prove that they are not responsible stewards of these properties.
Delegate Marshall adds, “Closures have destroyed the trust relationship on which the Commonwealth of Virginia relied when it first gave the federal government control of land that became Shenandoah National Park” and “Unlike the federal government, Virginia cannot ‘shut down,’ and we are required by law to submit balanced budgets. All of Virginia’s agencies are ‘on duty’ 24/7. Individually and collectively, the States are more than capable of running our parks in ways that best suit the needs of the nation, regions, communities, and citizens. Virginians know that preservation of the environment and natural resources are essential to economic development.”
Let’s hope that Delegate Bob Marshall is successful in returning Virginia lands to their proper owners, the people of Virginia.