Bingaman on Public Lands Sell-Off

February 10, 2006
01:40 PM
Sen. Jeff Bingaman
Proposed Sell-Off of Public Lands
The Bush Administration is proposing a big sell-off of public lands throughout the West as part of its 2007 budget proposal for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior.  This latest plan follows other recent attempts to sell off large amounts of public lands – including National Parks and other sensitive areas – to private corporations and individuals.  
Specifically, the Administration is seeking to sell hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest land in order to generate $800 million in revenues.  The President’s budget also assumes that the Bureau of Land Management will auction off more than $180 million worth of public lands over the next five years and more than $350 million in land over the next decade, the majority of which is intended to be used for deficit reduction and costs associated with these sales; in other words, to offset the effects of the Administration’s tax cuts for the wealthy.  Here’s Sen. Bingaman’s take on this idea:
“These land sales would have negative consequences for New Mexico and other Western states.  Our hunters, anglers, campers and other recreational users benefit from -- and depend on -- access to public lands.  So do foresters, cattlemen, miners and those who develop our energy resources.  In my view, selling public lands to pay down the deficit would be a short-sighted, ill-advised and irresponsible shift in Federal land management policy.  
“The Forest Service and BLM, through their normal planning process, already have authority to dispose of unneeded lands through sale or exchange,” Bingaman added.  “And I have supported targeted land transfers to local communities, and land exchanges to improve how we manage public lands. The President’s plan, though, would turn this existing process upside down, just to make the Administration’s budget numbers look better.
“Our public lands are a legacy for future generations.  We shouldn’t liquidate that legacy.”