June 10, 2008

Never Ending Land Grabs

by RJ Smith

Thanks to the Greens, the US Congress and the administration to continue locking up the American land. Yesterday, the House easily approved three more wilderness bills.

  • Tom Udall’s (D-NM) HR 2632 created 16,000 acres of new wilderness in northeast New Mexico.
  • Jim Costa (D-CA) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) were able to add 113,500 acres of new Wilderness in two areas in the southern Sierra with HR 3022.
  • Mary Bono’s (R-CA) HR 3682 created 41,000 additional acres of wilderness in four areas, and just for good measure created 31 miles of new wild & scenic rivers.
And the beat goes on.

Previously the House had approved new wilderness bills for Oregon and West Virginia and recently the Senate’s omnibus multi-bill land grab package created the long-delayed Washington state “wild sky wilderness.” Bush quickly signed that omnibus monstrosity.

The National Wilderness System already includes over 104,000,000 acres of land—that is an area larger than the entire state of California—most of which has never been inventoried for vital minerals or energy reserves, and is now locked up forever. It can only be used by a tiny percentage of the population as all mechanized equipment is forbidden—including for rescue operations. The unmanaged forests are the source for insect infestations and disease and uncontrollable forest fires. And we keep creating more and more.

The gates are wide open for all these land grabs with no more than a handful of Republicans strongly fighting them. And of course purported Republicans are dropping their own Federal land grab bills left and right. Strict constitutionalist and pro-property rights advocate Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tried to demand that there at least be recorded roll call votes on these land grabs and lock-ups, but he has met resistance even from Republican leaders. These bills are passed with what amounts to a legislative stealth bomber—bombing the American people with these land grabs under “suspension of the rules.” That means these bills are passed under the usual radar: there is little debate, no amendments, and no recorded vote. The speaker simply calls for a voice vote in a chamber that is basically empty.

Private lands and resources are being acquired by Fed, state, county and local governments at a rapid rate. Increased amounts of private lands are regulated or tied up in Bush administration “partnerships,” perpetual conservation easements, and “cooperative” conservation agreements. And government lands are then locked up in non-use wilderness or quasi-wilderness areas. America is already on its way to becoming a third world country where most land is owned and mismanaged by government. Congress won’t have to bother to pass climate control legislation because soon there won’t be much economic activity to control.