More on Muir
John, yes. . .but I mentioned Pinchot because I knew you had good things to say about him. Personally, I would likely be on the opposite side of Muir in most debates—and the opposite side of Pinchot in even more.
Many areas of currently public land would be far better off in private hands with no real restrictions on development. But, to the extent that the State owns any land at all beyond what it needs for the actual core business of government, I’d prefer that it make non-economic use of the land.
Efforts to “make practical use of” government land is really just economic planning of one sort or another. I realize that, in the short term, it’s not practical to privatize as much as either of us would like to. “Worthless” land that belongs to the government by default should also be open to various kinds of development and exploration if someone can find something useful to do with it. (This is the current policy we have for mining.)
In the short term, I agree we should think practically. But in the long term, I think that Muir’s vision has something to offer for public lands policy: preserve certain areas as for their own sake as “luxury goods.” The corollary to this is that we let the private sector take care of the economy.