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Bush Administration Sells Off America

Details $1B Land Sales 

MATTHEW DALY / AP 10feb2006

[Many articles below]

 

WASHINGTON The Bush administration on Friday detailed its proposal to sell more than 300,000 acres of national forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools in 41 states.

Mindfully.org note:

This is just one of the many bone-headed ideas that originate with the Bush administration. If one takes even a cursory look at the federal government, it's obvious that everything is being sold off at cut-rate bargains. One of the Bush administration's major goals is to line its friends (and its own) pockets with gold taken from the wealth of this nation. The phony Bush war on terrorism is the smoke and your TV is the mirror. It's almost all gone America. When do you start to take it back? Remain silent and you'll  lose the right to speak at all.

bush land sales cartoon by marty wolverton

 

The land sales, ranging from less than an acre to more than 1,000 acres, could total more than $1 billion and would be the largest sale of forest land in decades.

Western lawmakers immediately objected, saying the short-term gains would be offset by the permanent loss of public lands. Congress would have to approve the sales, and has rejected similar proposals in recent years.

Forest Service officials say the sales are needed to raise $800 million over the next five years to pay for schools and roads in rural counties hurt by logging cutbacks on federal land. The Bureau of Land Management has said it also plans to sell federal lands to raise an estimated $250 million over five years.

Dave Alberswerth, a public lands expert with the The Wilderness Society environmental group called the plan a billion-dollar boondoggle to privatize treasured public lands to pay for "tax cuts to the rich."

"This is not going to be politically acceptable to most people," Alberswerth said.

But Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs forest policy, said the parcels to be sold are isolated, expensive to manage or no longer meet the needs of the national forest system. The administration expects to have to sell only about 200,000 of the 309,000 acres identified Friday to meet the $800 million goal, he said.

"These are not the crown jewels we are talking about," Rey said in an interview. The public can review the land parcels that are up for sale on the Forest Service's Web site, Rey said; Maps of just four national forests were posted as of Friday, but Rey said all the properties should be posted by month's end.

The public will have until late March to comment on the proposed sales.

"This is a reasonable proposal to take a small fraction of a percentage of national land which is the least necessary and use it for those in need and achieve an important overarching public purpose," Rey said.

The proposed sell-off would total less than half of 1 percent of the 193 million-acre national forest system. The money would be used for roads, schools and other needs in rural counties hurt by sharp declines in timber sales,in the wake of federal forest policy that restricts logging to protect endangered species such as the spotted owl.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management, which previously said it will sell another 125,000 acres, said BLM land to be sold would be identified at the local level. The lands are typically part of a checkerboard pattern of small parcels surrounded by suburban or urban areas, Interior officials say, and have been identified as holding little natural, historical, cultural or energy value.

BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said much of the land would be near urban areas with high market value. In recent years, the government has sold parcels for tens of millions of dollars in Nevada, for example, she said.

"Lands formerly remote are now abutting metro areas. That is certainly the case in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah," she said.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that is precisely the reason the land should not be sold.

"Our hunters, anglers, campers and other recreational users benefit from and depend on access to public lands," Bingaman said. "In my view, selling public lands to pay down the deficit would be a shortsighted, ill-advised and irresponsible shift in federal land-management policy."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the plan "a terrible idea based on a misguided sense of priorities."

Not only is the administration proposing to sell off public lands to help finance the president's budget, the move also won't sufficiently fund the rural schools program, which has helped California and other states, Feinstein said. "I will do everything I can to defeat this effort," she said.

Nearly 500 parcels totaling more than 85,000 acres in California are identified for possible sale.

The proposal follows a failed move last year to allow the sale of public lands for mining. Western senators had criticized the idea, as well as a plan by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., to sell off 15 national parks.

Associated Press Writer Jennifer Talhelm contributed to this story.

source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021001669_pf.html 10feb2006


Sale of Public Lands Proposed

White House hopes to replace funds lost to logging cutbacks 

CICERO A. ESTRELLA / San Francisco Chronicle 11feb2006

 

Largest forest land sell-off in decades

The Bush administration is proposing to sell more than 300,000 acres of forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools and roads. 


Amount of land proposed to be sold,
in thousands of acres

Largest forest land sell-off in decades The Bush administration is proposing to sell more than 300,000 acres of forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools and roads. Amount of land proposed to be sold, in thousands of acres

  • States with lowest and highest amounts are labeled 
California   	85.47 
   Idaho        26.19 
   Colorado     21.57 
   Missouri     21.57 
   Florida       0.97 
   Ohio          0.42 
   Nebraska      0.36 
   Alaska        0.10 
   Wisconsin     0.08 

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

The Bush administration identified Friday more than 300,000 acres of national forest, including about 85,000 acres in California, that could be sold to pay for services in rural areas across the country.

National Forest Service officials said they want to sell about 200,000 acres to raise about $800 million over the next few years to pay for schools and roads in rural counties hurt by logging cutbacks on federal land. The Bureau of Land Management has said it also plans to sell federal lands to raise an estimated $250 million over five years.

Environmentalists and lawmakers from California balked at the idea, saying no amount of money is worth the permanent loss of public lands. Congress would have to approve the sales, which would be the largest sale of forest land in decades.

"Basically, they're selling the foundation to pay for the mortgage," said Eric Antebi, spokesman for the Sierra Club. "These lands really belong to future generations and shouldn't be sold to the highest bidder. There's no reason why the world's biggest economic power needs to sell parkland to make ends meet."

By far, the 85,465 acres of California land offered for the proposed land sales were more than any other state. Idaho, Colorado and Missouri were the only other states to make available more than 20,000 acres.

But Matt Mathes, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in California, said the parcels of land that his agency identified as the most expendable aren't the "crown jewels" of the state's more than 20 million acres of national forest. He said that 75 percent of the identified land is in seldom-used areas of the Plumas and Lassen national forests in the northern Sierra Nevada and in Klamath National Forest on the California-Oregon border.

"In general, these are not areas used frequently by the public and valuable in terms of wildlife," he said. "These parcels are hemmed in by private land on all sides."

Antebi challenged that claim, which echoed those made by the Bush administration.

"We're talking about an agency that has deliberately tried to open up pristine roadless areas for road-building, oil and gas development and timber harvesting," he said. "I don't think they're the most credible source. I wouldn't take their word for it."

The public will have until late March to comment on the proposed sales. Mathes said that the state will then re-evaluate which parcels to save, and that he didn't anticipate that all 85,000 acres would be made available.

"We do realize that some of this land is very, very valuable to some people -- whether they use it for hiking, hunting, fishing or mountain bicycling," he said. "We look forward to hearing from them. We realize the list needs further refining."

The proposed sell-off would total less than half of 1 percent of the 193 million-acre national forest system. The money would be used for roads, schools and other needs in rural counties hurt by sharp declines in timber sales, in the wake of federal forest policy that restricts logging to protect endangered species such as the spotted owl.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the plan "a terrible idea based on a misguided sense of priorities."

Not only is the administration proposing to sell off public lands to help finance the president's budget, the move also won't sufficiently fund the rural schools program, which has helped California and other states, Feinstein said. "I will do everything I can to defeat this effort," she said.

The proposal follows a failed move last year to allow the sale of public lands for mining. Western senators had criticized the idea, as well as a plan by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, to sell off 15 national parks.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/02/11/MNGMQH6S1F1.DTL&type=printable 11feb2006


A $1-Billion Public Land Sale Proposed 

JANET WILSON / Los Angeles Times 10feb2006

 

The Bush administration today called for selling off more than $1 billion in public lands over the next decade, beginning with the sale this year of $800 million worth of national forestland.

The 300,000 acres of forestland proposed for the auction block includes 85,000 acres in California, scattered across most of the state's 18 national forests, including the Angeles, San Bernardino, Los Padres and Sierra National forests.

Pending congressional approval for the plan, the proceeds will go toward funding rural schools and roads. Future sales of land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would be used to offset federal budget reductions.

Forest Service officials said today the national forestland earmarked for sale are "isolated" tracts that "no longer meet Forest Service purposes" and do not include wilderness areas or land vital to wildlife or recreation.

Critics, including the two senators who sponsored the original bill in 2000, say that the selection process was deeply flawed.

They noted that rural counties would still lose at least half of the federal school and road funding they received in the last five years, while federal land would be gone for good to home builders and other developers.

Conservation groups are worried that key links between buffer zones and national forests could be lost, including along sections of some of California's most scenic rivers.

The proceeds from the sale of the national forestland would be used to fund rural counties traditionally dependent on royalties from timber harvested in federal forests.

As the timber industry declined in the 1990s, revenue for local schools and roads dried up, and Congress in 2000 mandated payments from the federal treasury. Those payments have been eliminated from the proposed 2007 budget.

source: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-021006forest_lat,0,7066816,print.story?coll=la-home-headlines 11feb2006


California Ready to Fight Plan to Sell Forest Lands 

MICHAEL DOYLE / MOdesto Bee 11feb2006

 

WASHINGTON The Bush administration on Friday proposed selling as many as 85,465 acres of national forest in California, prompting harsh reactions from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

The California land that could be sold includes isolated chunks of the Tahoe, Stanislaus and Sequoia national forests. They are part of a much larger administration package designed to raise $800 million for rural schools.

"We appreciate that conveying federal land out of public ownership is a sensitive issue," Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey told reporters Friday.

That's an understatement.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. "I've never been in support of selling hard assets to pay for day-to-day operations."

Cardoza predicted the administration's plan would be a "hard sell" in Congress. The skepticism was apparent even before the full plan was unveiled, and with a 30-day public comment period just starting.

"I do have preliminary concerns," Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said. "Public lands are an asset that needs to be managed and conserved."

Craig co-wrote the 2000 rural schools funding law that the administration's new plan would replace. The current Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expires Sept. 30, drying up the stream of federal funds that rural schools have come to rely on.

It's been a generous law until now, sending out $1.6 billion nationwide. California last year picked up about $69 million of the total. The guaranteed funds support schools that once depended on timber revenues from local federally owned lands. As those federal harvests declined during the 1990s, school funding suffered.

A far-flung National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition already has been lobbying to renew the existing funding bill on behalf of members ranging from the Fresno County Office of Education to Sierra Pacific Industries.

With the current law ending and money tight, administration officials took a different tack. Counties still would be paid, but the pot of money gradually would shrink and the federal spending would be offset by the sale of public lands.

The administration's plan identifies 309,421 acres nationwide that may be subject to sale over the next five years. Forest Service officials calculate that the $800 million being sought for rural schools may be obtained by selling about 175,000 acres.

"We have a list that is more than adequate to meet our revenue needs," Rey said.

In the central Sierra Nevada, the potential sales list ranges from 4,513 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest to a modest 298 acres in the Sequoia National Forest. The state's biggest share of potential acres for sale are in Northern California, with more than one-third in Klamath National Forest.

John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte, contends that selling the federal land would open it to development or logging.

"A stable funding source must be provided," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, "but not at the expense of our wilderness."

source: http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11795105p-12512521c.html 11feb2006


Forest Service Prepared to Put Land on Market 

JIM BARNETT / Newhouse News Service / The Plain Dealer 11feb2006

 

Washington The Bush administration Friday posted a "for sale" sign on 309,000 acres of federal forests, saying proceeds would aid counties in 39 states struggling to replace revenue from reduced timber sales.

The plan met opposition from two influential groups environmental advocates who said sales would harm the public interest and county leaders who said they won't do enough to help rural governments pay for basic services.

"It's not enough money," said Doug Robertson, a commissioner in Douglas County, Ore. "I don't think we would become insolvent. But the county would be devastated."

The land sales would generate $800 million, according to administration officials. The money would be doled out in declining amounts over five years, giving county leaders time to adjust their budgets.

"This is an extension of a transition that must at some point occur," said Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture, the administration appointee who oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service placed a state-by-state list of the parcels on its Web site Friday, and Rey said the agency would take comments from the public for 30 days before making the list final. The site lists 420 acres in the Wayne National Forest in southern Ohio as land that could be sold. The Wayne Forest totals 236,383 acres owned by the federal government.

More than one-quarter of the acres being considered for sale are in California, with 85,465. Idaho is next with 26,194, followed by Colorado, 21,572, and Missouri, 21,566.

Rey said the parcels for sale typically are isolated or expensive to manage or do not fit Forest Service management criteria. The agency probably will sell parcels totaling 175,000 acres, he said. By comparison, the agency continues to buy land better suited to its mission at the rate of about 115,000 acres a year.

Bill Arthur, a Sierra Club representative based in Seattle, said the idea of selling any national forest land undermines the public interest in conserving natural areas. It also could encourage some members of Congress who have proposed selling off entire forests and parks, he said. Sen. Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, normally at odds with environmental groups, expressed similar concerns. "Public lands are an asset that needs to be managed and conserved," Craig said.

In announcing the 2,930 parcels for sale, Rey added detail to a proposal unveiled Monday in President Bush's budget for 2007. The administration said it wants to restore a century-old practice of paying counties a share of proceeds from timber sales within their borders but with no guaranteed minimums.

The practice effectively was suspended by a 2000 law intended to cushion counties from the financial effects of reduced harvest levels. The law set guaranteed payments based on historically high levels of harvest, but it will expire in September unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The measure generated broad support in Congress six years ago. But lead proponents have agreed that getting a fully funded extension will be difficult in a time of tight budgets and historic deficits.


Public Land Sale Could Involve Two Valley Parcels in Colorado

SCOTT CONDON / Aspen Times 11feb2006

 

The Roaring Fork Valley mostly will be spared from President Bush's controversial proposal to sell off national forest lands to offset loss of revenues from timber sales.

The Bush administration announced Friday it hopes to raise $800 million over five years through the sale of 200,000 acres of forest lands. The proposal identified 21,652 acres in Colorado as eligible for the auction block - including 11 parcels totaling 1,240 acres in the White River National Forest.

Two of those parcels are in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. One 200-acre piece is along Freeman Creek, about two miles east of Sunlight ski area outside Glenwood Springs in Garfield County.

A second parcel of 120 acres is two miles east of Coal Basin, in the Redstone area of Pitkin County.

Both parcels are isolated islands of Forest Service land surrounded by private property or U.S. Bureau of Land Management holdings.

"It's hard to say who would have interest in them or how they would appraise," said Cindy Dean, a real estate specialist with the Aspen/Sopris District of the Forest Service.

Aspen Mountain land withdrawn The Forest Service scrambled late last year to identify lands that could be used in the president's program. In Colorado, the regional office in Denver assembled the list, then sent it to district offices throughout the state for review.

The list initially included an unspecified amount of land on the back of Aspen Mountain, Dean said. When mining claims were patented during Aspen's silver boom, numerous small pieces were left over. They are often triangular pieces of less than one acre.

Those mining claim remnants often don't have legal descriptions, making them difficult to sell.

"So all the stuff on Aspen Mountain fell off the list," Dean said.

The Forest Service also withdrew the Aspen Mountain property from consideration because this latest program sought new lands to offer for sale. The sale of mining claim remnants was already authorized by a previous act, said Randy Karstaedt, director of physical resources for the Forest Service's regional office.

A list of the property that the administration wants to sell will be published at the end of February in the Federal Register, the official notification publication of the federal government. The public will have 30 days to comment.

Karstaedt said the properties that "cause consternation" for one reason or another will be withdrawn. He wouldn't say if he felt any properties in Colorado would be controversial.

"The public comments will tell us which stand out," he said.

Congress must approve the program before any properties can be sold. A fight is likely.

Program fuels 'privatization' fears The administration claims the federal land sale is necessary to renew a program that provides funds to states for improvements to schools and roads. The program used to be funded by revenues from timber sales, mineral resource sales and grazing fees. Fewer timber sales have left the program shortchanged, according to the administration.

Conservation groups counter that the Bush administration is selling off a national heritage of public lands. Scott Silver has warned about the "privatization" of public lands since the mid-1990s as the director of an Oregon-based group called Wild Wilderness. This is part of a pattern of the government administering public lands like a business - charging fees to visit spectacular natural landscapes and selling off land when it needs to raise capital, he said.

"This is the liquidation of America," Silver said.

He is unconvinced that the sales are needed to fund improvements to schools and roads. He believes it is a deliberate attempt to mismanage funds to assist an agenda of selling off public lands.

The Wilderness Society is also critical of the proposal. The administration justifies the program by saying only lands that are isolated or inefficient to manage were identified for sale. But Cecilia Clavet, a national forest lands specialist with the Wilderness Society, said remote lands shouldn't be treated as worthless lands.

She said many of the parcels identified for sale provide wildlife habitat and provide other ecological advantages.

source: http://www.aspentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060211/NEWS/102110044&template=printart 11feb2006

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