Because Bush Administration has underfunded National Parks, Forest Service to Sell off Some Public LandsSomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Because Bush Administration has underfunded National Parks, Forest Service to Sell off Some Public Lands

31 May 2005 at 11:12:40 AM

When the government wisely set aside lands long ago for the public, for our enjoyment and also for the preservation of the wildnerness, they could not have counted on such a environmentally hostile president and congress, that put corporate interests ahead of natural ones.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Wrestling with a long inadequate maintenance budget and facing the prospect of more funding cuts, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing to sell a fifth or more of its staff buildings across the country, including hundreds in California.

A Bush administration plan would allow the Forest Service to go into the real estate business, auctioning staff facilities and the land they sit on to raise cash for upkeep and the construction of new buildings.
Outside the agency, some argue that the Forest Service plan is part of a troubling effort to use the sale of public lands to finance basic government operations.

"They all fit into a pattern where we seem to be disposing of public lands indirectly without telling people what we're doing," said UC Berkeley forest policy professor Sally K. Fairfax. "Part of what they're doing is legitimate, but the other half is what scares me."

She cited two other administration proposals.

One would change a congressional spending formula so that billions of dollars from public land auctions in the fast-developing Las Vegas region would go to the U.S. Treasury to offset the federal deficit. Most of the federal money is now used to finance local park projects and to purchase environmentally valuable private holdings in Nevada.

Another plan under consideration would give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management expanded authority to keep a portion of the income from public land sales outside the Las Vegas area, reducing the amount earmarked for federal land purchases.

At the same time, funding is plummeting for the main federal program that finances land conservation acquisitions by the Forest Service and other federal agencies.

The administration has proposed $147 million for federal land acquisition in 2006, down from more than $400 million four years ago. The House recently voted to virtually eliminate it in budget legislation that now goes to the Senate.

Moreover, the Forest Service sales could erode what traditionally has been one of the agency's primary means of acquiring recreation parcels and wildlife habitat — its land exchange program.

If forest managers can amass cash for long-sought building projects by auctioning a surplus town property, "there would be less chance" they would swap it for back-country acreage, Bosworth acknowledged.

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