Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land

Housing and development are creeping up to the bluffs of Red Mountain in St. George.
(Mark Boster / LAT)
May 3, 2006

Bills are pending in Congress to sell federal lands to private developers and give the money to state and local governments. Selling out our national heritage for a few bucks, so we can afford taxcuts for billionaires, and give rich people a place to build and buy more McMansions. What kind of a public policy is this? The excuse here is that the proceeds go to state and local governments. But why are they so starved for money? Because the feds keep issuing unfunded mandates, because the feds don't have the money to pay for the programs they pass, because they've got to pay for taxcuts for billionaires. Crazy.

And Democrats are pushing these crazy bills too. Lobbyist money rules. Go to page 2 of the article, and read about the guy who owns millions of dollars of land that's an endangered species preserve. He's hired Bruce Babbitt, former Democratic Interior Secretary, and "a succession of Washington lobbyists" to get the private benefit he wants.

Eyes in the West Are on Federal Land Sale
Proceeds from U.S. acreage outside Zion park would be used for local development.

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Its mild climate, stunning scenery and proximity to several national parks have helped make Washington County one of the five fastest-growing counties in the nation. But like many rural Western counties, it has little room to expand: 87% of its land is owned by the federal government.

Now, Utah's congressional delegation has a plan to remedy the problem, one that is being closely watched by nearly a dozen Western counties with similar growing pains. The plan is also being scrutinized by conservationists who warn that it would set a dangerous precedent, making thousands of acres of public land available for private development as well as offering a windfall for local agencies and special deals for politically influential officials and property owners.

The proposed Washington County Growth and Conservation Act would sell up to 40 square miles of federal land and use the proceeds to finance a multimillion-dollar water pipeline and other local projects. Utah Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson are expected to introduce the bill in coming weeks. Waiting in the wings are nearly a dozen similar bills for counties in Utah, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico where population pressure is fueling the demand for more developable land.


For conservationists, however, the bill is part of a dangerous trend.

"People hoorah these projects on the local level, saying, 'We are going to do this for our people,' " said Janine Blaeloch, director of the Western Lands Project, a Seattle-based group that monitors the sale of federal lands. "But small groups benefit, and those are developers, paving companies and golf course developers. Where federal land has been taken over for development, it ends up being used for second homes and high-end development."

Here's a statement by James Doyle, the developer, made before the Committee on Resources Subcommittee on National Parks & Public Lands in 2000.

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