Democrats Poised for Yet Another Land Grab

In these troubled times, Congress’ plate is piled high with vital legislative priorities. Naturally, upon getting to work this week, the Senate is zeroing in on the most important of all: taking millions of acres of land that may yield a vast amount of natural gas and other mineral resources and locking them away from development forever. Take that, energy crisis!

Our very own Myron Ebell had something to say about this move in a press release today:

The Bingaman-Reid bill is full of bad provisions, but the worst are the ones that would prohibit oil and natural gas production on more than a million acres of federal land. Tens of millions of acres of federal lands in the West have already been withdrawn from mineral and energy production. The new Congress should be opening some of these areas, which would help increase domestic energy production and lower prices. Instead, faced with declining natural gas production and potential shortages in the near future, the first bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the Senate to consider would take 1.2 million acres in Wyoming with high natural gas potential out of production.

I should also point out that property rights advocates like the Competitive Enterprise Institute have long opposed expanding federal land ownership, in part because of the federal government’s poor track record in managing the lands it already controls. Management strategies adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service have led to destructive wildfires, habitat loss, and the spread of pests and disease in large swaths of forest and range land throughout the Western United States. Over one hundred non-profit groups last November sent a letter to the Senate raising concerns about an earlier incarnation of the current legislation.

ADDENDUM: CEI adjunct fellow Bob Nelson has been writing about the deficiencies of federal land management for quite some time – his Forbes column from 2000 is an excellent introduction to the topic. In depth researchers will want to get a hold of a copy of his book, A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (Rowman & Littlefield).