November 19, 2008

Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008

Senator Reid calls peers into lame duck session to debate controversial bill

Environmental Analysis

Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)

One would think with all the talk of bailouts and a faltering economy, the subject of preserving "wilderness" areas would not be high on the Congressional agenda. But alas, it appears this is not the case as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced he is calling back his peers in a lame duck session to try and pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008.

This initiative is being decried by property rights advocates as a massive land grab by Uncle Sam, and rightly so. The over 1,000 page bill not only contains some $4 billion in pork barrel spending, but also creates a number of new (and unnecessary) "conservation" programs which will put bureaucrats in charge of millions of new acres of our nation's lands. The Act is certain to gum up the works of those individuals trying to make use of their property with a new layer of red tape, and most tragically, it may ultimately force the American taxpayer to fund the buyout of new tracts that are currently owned by private individuals. This, at a time when the Federal government already owns an astonishing 650 million acres and self-admittedly claims it is struggling with maintenance issues.

Not surprisingly, many Americans in rural areas oppose the creation of new National Heritage Areas. But perhaps a bit more odd to many, it appears even constituencies who voted for Barak Obama in large numbers are also showing their distaste for this bill.

According to a recent poll by the National Center for Public Policy Research, 52 percent of African-Americans oppose legislation to create new National Heritage Areas while only 37 percent support it. This opposition probably reflects the fact that many minorities are particularly vulnerable to home price increases, and prices would likely rise following National Heritage Area designation. It will be interesting to see if findings like this give pause to the legislation's supporters.