Amazingly, after getting thoroughly dumped on when they tried this last year, the Bush administration is once again proposing to sell off substantial amounts of our nation's public lands.
From the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday:
For the second year in a row, the Bush administration has proposed selling off as much as 300,000 acres of national forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools and roads.
And for the second year, Western lawmakers and environmentalists blasted the plan, saying short-term gains would be offset by the permanent loss of the land.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the new chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee that oversees environmental spending, pronounced the plan dead on arrival. “They are just not going to do this. It's not going to happen,” Dicks said Monday.
“We're going to find a way to fund the (rural) schools program without selling even one acre of public land,” added Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the plan a “betrayal,” and said he would “work around the clock ... to convince Congress to act honorably and fulfill the federal obligation to our rural counties.”
Once again, former timber lobbyist, Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey, is serving as Bush's point man on this plan. Once again, he is lying by claiming that no one has come up with a better idea to fund the rural schools in question.
For some background on last year's proposal, which faded away after receiving essentially no support amongst either the public or Congress, see these old posts of mine:
- New public lands sell-off proposed by GOP: Feb 11, 2006
- The trumped up rationale to privatize public land: Feb 12, 2006
- Point man on Bush's public lands sale beholden to real estate developer: Feb 13, 2006
- Some details on the Bush public land sale emerge: Feb 20, 2006
- GOP Senator vows to kill Bush's public land sell-off: Feb 21, 2006
- Montanans take their public land seriously: Feb 25, 2006
- Ultimate goal of privatizing public lands: Mar 2, 2006
- More opposition to Bush's "sneaker" public lands sale: Mar 22, 2006
- Bush's public land sale sputters along: Mar 30, 2006
Last year's sell-off, clearly on its last legs by the end of March, was officially put out of its misery over the summer. Now, Bush and Rey have brought it back from the dead with a few cosmetic changes.
The rhetoric is unchanged, however. Here is a quote from Mark Rey from the last post above, a post which outlined a specific alternative proposal from Senators Baucus and Wyden for funding rural schools "by withholding taxes from payments by the Federal government for goods and services delivered by public contractors at a rate of three percent of the payment amount" At that time, Rey said, "We're open to alternatives, but nary another alternative has emerged." I asked, rhetorically, "What will his tune be tomorrow?"
Over ten months later, his tune is precisely the same. The Durango Herald reports today: "Rey said he was open to hearing about other funding mechanisms for helping rural communities, but the plan's critics had offered none."
Fortunately, Democrats now control Congress, so we have real hope that an alternative along the lines of the one Baucus and Wyden proposed last year will actually emerge as legislation.