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November 13, 2005

Privatizing our public lands

How'd you like mining companies buying up chunks of our national parks for real estate speculation?  Because that's exactly what would happen under a new bill that that House Repulbicans are attempting to sneak through the budget process.  As the PI reports:

More than 50,000 acres of old mining claims in Washington -- including some inside Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks -- could be converted to private land under legislation expected to pass the U.S. House next week.

The proposal also would open up millions of acres in Washington's national forests -- and more than 350 million acres across the West -- to be newly privatized under a revision of the 1872 Mining Law tucked into a 184-page budget bill.

Mining companies getting the opportunity to take our public lands for free.  I can't even begin to count the ways in which this is a terrible idea.

Unfortuantely, our state's lone "moderate" Republican representative, Dave Reichert, seems to think this is just fine.

"There are other parts of the bill we're going to work on, but you can only do so much," said Mike Shields, Reichert's chief of staff. "There are some things that Dave likes about the bill. He's going to vote for it."

Looks like Dave's cynically decided the giving enviros a nod by voting against drilling in the Arctic Refuge was enough, and that he'd better get back in line with the most extreme elements of his party.

Hypocrite.  Coward.

Posted by Jon Stahl on November 13, 2005 at 08:38 AM in Policy | Permalink


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How much public land is enough? Have you any idea how much of Washington state is already public? if you do not know the answer to that simple question, then how can you presume to know that selling a bit is wrong?

Or are you the sort who believes that all land ought to be public, in which case you should be disregarded as a powermad utopian without regard for others' needs. Of course, such people ought be ignored by the reasonable.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 14, 2005 8:09:26 AM

Washington DC conservatives like to set up the federal lands straw man and argue for more public ownership in the West, as if that’s the only way to solve the glaring problem of absentee ownership of Western lands. Shifting ownership from a east-coast based public government to an east-coast based private business is not going to solve the issue of Westerners not having much of a say about what is going on around them.

A realistic solution would be active local and state governments and local organizations taking more control over federal lands. This isn't an argument for relighting the Sagebrush Rebellion or the county movement, but a more intelligent, and active local control. Like the agreement between Grand County, UT and the BLM (http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=3697).

Posted by: Emmett O'Connell | Nov 14, 2005 8:50:51 AM

Anon, accoriding to http://www.biodiversitypartners.org/reports/WA/Report/Overview.shtml

About 40% of the land base of Washington state is in public ownership, including military bases, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and state and federal parks, forests and wildlife lands. This does not include tribal lands, which account for another 6%. About 30% of the state's tidelands and 75% of freshwater shorelands are also owned by the state, the remainder having been sold into private ownership after statehood in 1889.

This is less than in many Western states, and much of it is high elevation forest or rock-and-ice.

And I do presume to know that selling it is wrong. Private property is fine, but public lands are the commonly-held property of all Americans. Public lands are our common birthright as Americans, and I resent any effort to sell off my property so that greedy corporations can make a fast buck.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Nov 15, 2005 12:44:35 AM

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