Thursday :: Jun 24, 2004

Bush Selling off Public Land Cheaply

by Mary

NPR had a story on All Things Considered yesterday that reported how the Bush administration sold off 155 acres on top of a landmark mountain near Crested Butte, Colorado for $5 per acre. This is just the first of 55 such sales they are planning to settle ASAP stating that they "have no choice" -- it is necessary to settle these cases now. One thing is quite clear, under Bush's BLM rules, the public loses and the fat cat polluters and despoilers win. The poorman claims of "Mikey made me do it" are just a little bit risible since this policy rewards his contributors while divesting the public of their resources and this policy is clearly aligned with other Bush policies of taking public resources to reward their cronies.

As little as $0.84 an acre is the price our public lands are selling for under the US 1872 Mining Law. This law has never been adjusted for inflation nor taken in account the value of the land to the public. This law was instituted in the 19th century to encourage the development of the western lands which would help settle and claim these lands for the USA.

"All valuable mineral deposits in the lands belonging to the United States....shall be free and open to exploration and purchase." - 1872 Mining Law

During the Clinton administration there was a real attempt to reform this obsolete law, yet the conservative Senators blocked this effort. After that, Clinton placed a moratorium on performing these sales knowing that this law destroys the ability of the Government to effectively manage public lands for the good of the American public.

Under the Bush administration, the battle for the public lands has been summarily ceded to those making claims. And they are prepared to rack up sales that have nothing to do with the value of the land. In Crested Butte, one tenth of an acre sells for $100,000 while the mining company purchased their land just outside the town for $5 per acre. Furthermore, once the company purchases the land, they are free to do whatever they want with it. If the company wants to subdivide the land and build housing developments or resorts, they have truly scored a "sucker" coup of Bush proportions on the American public.

NPR's report says that even the mining industry is unhappy about this law because they are tired of looking like the bad guy and they think that this law should be reformed. But they are worried that proposed changes would too great for them to sign on so they are reluctant to back any changes.

Thus, the Congress has been unable to reform this law for over 100 years. This law shows how the current campaign financing practices corrupt the political processes. And it demonstrates the unfair distribution of power for states in our government. Otherwise, why would California have the same weight as Wyoming in the Senate? This law is unfair to the American public, but very lucrative to individual Senators, making it hard to see how it can be reformed without a reformation of the campaign financing laws.

Click here for a report from the Environmental Working Group about who is buying up Oregon public lands. Or go to this page to investigate what is happening in any of the other western states the Bush administration is selling off and who is buying our lands.

x-posted at Pacific Views because this story needs more exposure!

Mary :: 12:24 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!