I wrote the following editorial for my local paper, and include it now in my much neglected blog.
On March 26th, the US senate passed SA 838, a budget amendment enabling the sale and transfer of federal public lands in a 51-49 vote. The reasoning behind this effort is that the land is mismanaged by the Feds, that some land is "excess," and that the sale could be used to pay off the national debt. With an outdoor industry that generates 6 billion dollars annually and supports 6.1 million jobs, this is an absurd way to reduce the debt, as any business owner can tell you that you don't sell off the tools of your trade in order to pay your rent. Not if you want to stay in business. As an outdoorsman I'd hope that the unique American legacy of protecting wild places for the enjoyment and education of its citizens would continue in perpetuity, and I am simply horrified at this narrow and short sighted proposal. In a society where very little is available for free, access to public land remains a birthright and refuge that anyone can enjoy, regardless of income level. It isn't difficult to imagine who would benefit the most from such sales and transfers (sponsors include folks with close ties to oil and mining interests), but it is clear to me that once enacted we will never get those lands back. The problems that are mentioned in the proposals have a basis in reality, but the principle of land being held for the benefit of all is not the problem, and selling it out from under the public is clearly not the solution. Please let your representative know that you oppose such irreversible measures to alleviate temporary problems.