December 10, 2005

Reason for concern about sale of U.S. lands

Los Angeles Times

Re "This Land May Not Be Your Land," Dec. 4

Not too reassuring was Gerald Hillier's quote, "This is not a return to the Old West land rush," in the article about a bill to allow mining claim holders to purchase federal property.

Hillier is the former U.S. Bureau of Land Management district manager for the California Desert Conservation Area and now a consultant to county officials in four Southwestern states.

Having largely eviscerated conservation measures from the Conservation Area Management Plan during his tenure and, more recently, having played a role in representing the Blue Ribbon Coalition of off-highway vehicle users in the soon-to-be-released West Mojave Plan, such comments cannot be taken too seriously. Our public lands belong to all Americans, not a select few.


Helendale, Calif.

Egan is a former wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management.

• • • • • •

The proposed legislation by Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) and Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada) is equivalent to a spendthrift heir selling his inheritance for a spending spree. Under the radar, without open discussion, the legislation would be a monumental change in the character of Western public land.

Don't be fooled by the "mining law reform" twist. Read the language: "to facilitate sustainable economic development" is a defined justification for privatization. Buyers, supported by a "certified appraiser," determine the price — an open invitation to bogus appraisals. The result: Anyone can claim public property, buy it and develop it. The property does not need to be a current mining claim, or have mineral value. Entire forests could be claimed and purchased by timber companies.

Anyone who has hiked, fished, driven through, looked at or in any other way appreciated public lands in the West should be aghast and horrified at this proposed legislation.

The astounding fact is that it squeaked through the House and could become law.


Los Angeles