Friday, February 17, 2006

Bush Seeks $1billion Selloff of Public Lands

President Bush's proposed 2007 budget includes provisions for the sale of almost $1 Billion worth of public lands. The proposal is intended to raise funds for the federal treasury, or more specifically, to replace funding for rural roads and schools eliminated from the 2007 budget. If Congress approves, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management would have mandatory sales targets, something never seen before.


The proposed numbers are truly staggering.

The administration has set its sights on selling over 300,000 acres of Forest Service land in 32 states and more than 500,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in the West.

While the sale of public lands is not without precedent, looking to such sales as a source of substantial revenues breaks new ground.

The FY 2007 budget gives the BLM a $182 million revenue target over the years from 2007 through 2011. Then, in the years 2008 through 2016 the BLM's mandatory revenue target is an additional $351 million.  

Leshy said lands approaching the size of the state of Rhode Island would have to be sold off to meet the 2007-2011 targets. "It's bad policy," said Leshy. "Federal lands are our natural heritage and they should not be used as a cookie jar. It is clear that Americans want more land conservation not less."

In the past, sales of public lands have been done on an as needed basis in the interest of making agency management easier.  Typically it was done with cooperation at the local level. But that is not so here.

At a press conference Tuesday organized by the Wilderness Society a former solicitor with the U.S. Department of the Interior, and professor of law at University of California-Hastings said the BLM routinely makes adjustments in land holdings, buying and selling small parcels in consultation with local communities. But John Leshy said the FY 2007 budget mandates a different process, "not locally driven, but driven by money targets." "This process is top down, and it doesn't cut local communities in," he said.

So, tax cuts will be made for the rich while federal agencies will be made to sell the very thing they protect, for want of adequate funding.

The list of potential sale parcels is here.

This outrageous proposal requires our input.  Please call your Congress Critter at (888) 355-3588 and state your ample disgust.

Wilderness Society Link  

Detroit News Link


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