Skip to comments.Government lines up $1.4 billion for conservation property purchases
Posted on 05/30/2012 4:28:59 AM PDT by IbJensen
Controversial legislation tucked into a contentious highway-funding bill gives state and federal governments $1.4 billion to buy private property for new conservation efforts and adds even more inventory to the nations 635 million acre holding.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, says this two-year funding mechanism for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is particularly egregious because the government doesnt have billions of dollars needed to care for the vast holdings.
The mandatory buying of more land under LWCF is a fiscal dereliction of dutyespecially since the government cant afford to maintain the lands it already owns, Hastings said.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) agrees the federal government is not always a good steward of the land; especially in his state where a law was recently passed demanding Washington return to its control 30 million acres of federal lands within its borders.
The decision in Washington is always to addwe want more land, we dont want less, said Bishop, chairman of the Natural Resources subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands. Were going to show that we can protect what needs to be protected, keep multiple-use where it needs to be, and what can be developed will be developed.
State control would give Utah the power to develop the lands natural resources and collect property taxes local governments depend on to pay for education.
Were realizing that if were going to have a future for our kids, we need to have control over our own destiny, Bishop said. When you stop us from developing jobs in manufacturing and mining our resources then you stop income taxes coming in.
Reminiscent of the Sagebrush Rebellion
The sentiment in Utah is reminiscent of the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s when Western states protested federal control over grazing rights, mining, logging and other activities on land within its borders.
However, the presidential election of Ronald Reagan quelled the range war not long after an address he gave in August 1980 in Salt Lake City, Utah: I happen to be one who cheers and supports the Sagebrush Rebellion. Count me in as a rebel.
Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed the land transfer measure in March directing Washington to return 30 million acres to state control.
A similar measure passed in Arizona but was recently vetoed by Gov. Janice Brewer who cited a number of reasons including the $23 million she estimated it would cost to manage federal lands. Colorado also considered a bill to take back control of land in their state, but it died in committee.
The Obama administration doesnt seem to be taking threats of a new range uprising seriously. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar chalked up the states legislative actions to political stunts.
From my point of view it defies common sense, Salazar told the Salt Lake Tribune on April 24. I think it is political rhetoric you see in an election year. The fact is, Utah is a great example of where, through the use of public lands, we are creating thousands and thousands of jobs.
The total amount of land controlled by the federal government is not definitively known, according to a Feb. 8, 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service examining federal ownership. The holdings roughly amount to 635-640 million acres, or 28 percent of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the U.S.
The federal government controls more land in Nevada, 81 percent of the total, than in any other state. Utah comes in second, where the federal government controls 67 percent of its lands.
Were recognizing that this is about our future and the federal government basically has been heavy handed and arbitrary in how they deal with this, Bishop said. So when Sec. Salazar says it defies common sense that the state would want our land, I dont see how wanting to actually fund our education and help our kids defies common sense, or wanting to actually have recreational opportunities defies common sense, or wanting to develop the resources base we have in our state defies common sense.
Its the federal government that defies common sense, not us, Bishop said. Lets face it, the other side always says if you allow states to have control of their lands they will just rape and pillage and strip mine everything. Thats silly. The idea that the states cant protect the land is a bogus argument especially when the federal government has a proven track record of its inability to manage its property.
In addition to the $1.4 billion to purchase land through the LWCF, the Forest Service announced in April they have dedicated $40.6 million to make 27 land purchases in 15 states this
The federales has used this land grap scheme to, among other things, lock up natural resources and to just show the cowering public how powerful they truly are!
Instead of looking at this as a single issue at this point in time you need to follow the history.
The Truman proclamation followed by Eisenhower's Submerged Lands Act which gave rise to using offshore royalties to fund the LWCF as well as urban parks and historical site preservation.
Then there was CARA and CARA 2000 which would have given the coastal states more offshore money for coastal mitigation but the interior states killed that because they wouldn't get their share.
Then there was GOMESA 2006 in which TX, LA, MS, and AL were given royalty sharing and a portion of that shared royalty was diverted directly into LWCF to give the interior states their share.
Now Virginia has said that they would allow offshore drilling but they also want royalty sharing but instead of using the shared royalty for coastal mitigation they want to use it for roads. Virginia is not opposed to shared royalty going into LWCF.
Re-read the article recognizing that Hastings represents a coastal state and Bishop represents an interior state.