Feb 12, 2006

Bush Administration Seeks To Sell Off Federal Lands

Above: Map courtesy of Associated Press

(Washington, DC) The Bush administration on Friday identified more than 300,000 acres of national forest - including about 85,000 acres in California - that it believes should be sold to raise revenue for services in rural areas across the country.

The plan, which requires congressional approval, would use money from the sales to replace proposed cutbacks of federal dollars that now help pay for schools and roads.

"This is a fire sale of public lands. It is utterly unprecedented," said Char Miller, professor of environmental history at Trinity University in San Antonio, who has written extensively about the Forest Service. "It signals that the lands and the agency that manages them are in deep trouble."

If Congress fails to approve the plan it would have to come up with another revenue source for payments to rural school systems that for 92 years have received a percentage of timber sales on these federal lands.

Celia Boddington, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said much of the land is near urban areas with high market value.

"Lands formerly remote are now abutting metro areas," said Boddington. "That is certainly the case in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah."

Environmentalists believe that any short-term gains would be more than offset by the loss of public lands.

"I am outraged, and I don't think the public is going to stand for it for one minute," said Wilderness Society policy analyst Mike Anderson. "It's a scheme to raise money at the expense of the national forests, the wildlife, recreation and all the other values that Americans hold dear. It's the ultimate threat to the national forest."

The drive to privatize is also at play here; the neo-conservative advisors to the president are true believers in unfettered free markets.

There are some facets of life, however, that should be above the whims of the market. Congress should recognize that this plan is a short-sighted scheme motivated solely by the huge budget deficits this administration has created, and should not succumb to the call of the Sirens for a quick billion in revenue.


Anonymous said...

This plan is an atrocious afront to all Americans--red state, blue state, and independent. Thanks for giving this story a voice, Mike; while we have our differences as a people, I think most of us agree that conservation is the only means to preserve the few national treasures we have left. Bush isn't trying to squash environmental loop-holes, he's trying to destroy the very West he claims to represent.

Lisa Renee said...

Here's something that gives an interesting contrast:

Under Clinton

I haven't had a chance to see what land is going to be sold in New Mexico but I would hope none of these lands are included.

Stefan Schmidt said...

Hopefully the land chosen for this fund raising stunt is not of any environmental value.

Stephanie said...

Just because public land is sold off doesn't mean it's going to be destroyed. And, as little access as we often have to these national treasure--the "public" in public land doesn't often seem to apply.

I'd be interested in how much of these lands are frequently threatened by forest fires and whether or not stemming the destructive power of forest fires plays a part in this. Even if the forest remains, a private developer could build and repair roads (which we can't on public land) that would give firefighters better access to enflamed areas when fires do occur.

I agree conservation is important, but I'm not willing to jump to conclusions. Private citizens with enough acerage are trying to build forests, sometimes from scratch, around the country and things like cutting down trees for timber can be healthy for forests if it's done wisely.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, you make some insightful points, but I think you're assuming a "best case scenario," which is possible, but not likely. What "developer" is going to buy thousands of acres, re-build service roads, and then leave the forest untouched? It seems to contradict the capitalist venture Bush is trying to advocate.

historymike said...

Sorry, Stephanie, I agree with anonymous. What we will probably see happen is a flurry of condos and retail spaces - suburban sprawl - in many of these areas.

All for a one-time infusion of cash that will just go to pay for a certain overseas war.

Nikki said...

This is unconscienable! I agree, Mike. Since much of this land is near urban areas we all know what that means.

Stephanie said...

It really depends on who buys the land. If Bush hand-picks who buys, then you're probably right and even more telling, he's probably doing it less to get capital for the war and more because he's being pressured by insiders who want to buy.

If, however, the bids are open and what they intend to do with the property comes into play, then we just might see better results.

A lot of people in my area are looking for quiet, cabin type homes with a lot of space between neighbors. Since such an atmosphere would be available in the areas you're describing, and because a lot of people who moved to suburbia are disenfranchised with the lack of idealistic results, they might try again in the forest.

However, long-term the results are probably going to be the same...but even that might be better than forests than get destroyed in blazing, uncontrollable fires that kill people and destroy lots of private property, because they're too inaccessible.

Hooda Thunkit said...

True Conservatives would much prefer that these natural spaces be conserved for their children, and their children, and... to enjoy.

Did you ever get the feeling that we should stuff the whole mess into the wayback machine, reset the dials for 1956, and do the last 50 years over???

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost our way.

America used to stand for concepts and ideals that are now long lost…