Skip to comments.Federal government is America's biggest real-estate tycoon
Posted on 04/16/2014 11:42:36 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
I have never paid close attention to the massive federal Bureau of Land Management. I'm an East Coast guy; never been West, where the BLM is a much, much bigger name, and, for some, a bigger headache.
The BLM, according to its website, tends to a huge amount of turf: 258 million surface acres of the United States. It sees to the mineral rights of 700 million acres. The latter number is 13 percent of the total land acreage of the United States. Yet, by its own count, BLM only manages 40 percent of the territory actually owned by the federal government.
That is far too much real estate in the belly of a beast that can't rub two dimes together without losing a quarter in the process. And it balks the idea that individual landowners, acting within their rights and in their rational self-interest, make for a better, stronger nation than one in which the government owns much of the property and tends to those lands as it sees fit. "I'm from the government; I'm here to help." Commence shivering.
A Congressional Research Service report from Feb. 8, 2012, notes that the feds have up to 640 million acres of land in their pockets, 28 percent of the 27.7 billion acres of land comprising the nation. A rather puny 19 million acres is military. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM are the big boys of property management, the latter three all within the Department of Interior.
Quite a bit of America's guts are held, not by individuals and not by states, but by the big-boy government. There are states that have rather little say about rather big parts of their landscape because of this federal ownership.
Nevada, site of the Cliven Bundy ranch controversy in recent times, is 81.1 percent in federal hands, according to the CRS report. So, in Nevada one can gamble or visit federal property. There wouldn't seem to be too many other options.
Other states hugely held by the feds include Utah at 66.5 percent; Alaska at 61.8; Idaho at 61.7; and Oregon at 53. Several other states, including California and Colorado, come close to 50 percent ownership by the feds.
Pennsylvania consists of 2.1 percent federal land. We're strictly minor-league players, though the lowest federal ownership numbers come in places like Rhode Island, Connecticut ... and Iowa. Iowa? The federal government apparently wants little to do with corn, cheese or wrestling.
Federal land management is not a focus in Pennsylvania; it is vastly important to people of the West, and, considering the numbers, for good reason.
Amid the Bundy siege last week, one of the more rational arguments heard was that of the Las Vegas Register-Tribune, which called for greater state and local control of federally owned lands. Other states, including Utah, have pressed for similar outcomes.
Individual landowners (what, both of them in Nevada?) have also been protesting federal control for decades through the Sagebrush Rebellion, of which the Bundy cattle not-quite-roundup will become a part.
It is unsettling to me and should be so to anyone who champions individual rights and individual actions as the methods for building a strong nation that so much land is held by the federal government.
This isn't just a Western problem. It's an American problem centered in the West, and it deserves far more widespread attention. After all, those lands are your lands; those lands are my lands.
Forney is the opinion editor of the Lebanon Daily News.
I think the problem is how it is administered (specifically, how environmental law is administered), not who owns it. We’ve seen loggers driven out of business over environmental issues, same with ranchers. Even farmers in central California are being driven to reduce acreage due to environmental law.
Better accommodation of human and business interests is certainly possible and should be established as a high priority by Congress.
In the meantime, the President should recognize the inhumanity of current environmental law by signing an executive order exempting Bundy from further persecution pending review of the law by Congress. He has set aside ACA law due to its inadequacies. Why not this one?
“This isn’t just a Western problem. It’s an American problem...”
It’s a constitutional problem too. National forests, wilderness areas, national parks, and BLM lands are ways of robbing states of resources and real estate. They keep massive bureaucracies going, and provide the federal government with more power and control it doesn’t need. The founders tried to avoid this kind of federal meddling in state business.
In my area we need permits to cut dead wood on Forest Service or BLM land. The Forest Service makes the permit process easy enough, but the BLM is impossible. The only people cutting wood on BLM land are BLM employees, or grazing lessees, and I’m not so sure about the latter. I’ve given up trying to get one of their permits.
I was asked to do a psychiatric consult on a patient admitted to a medical ward with a terminal illness in Wyoming years ago. He was severely depressed.
He was a career BLM guy, and talked wistfully about how lonely he had been in Wyoming because of it, and how much people there hated him because of it.
The states need to find ways to get it all back