Handing Over the Forests

Handing Over the Forests


I’m sure you many of have heard about President Bush’s proposal to sell off national forest land to raise money for the federal budget. The plan, which requires Congressional approval, would list 309,421 acres for sale in more than 30 states. (Click here for a state-by-state list.)

Most of the Forest Service tracts are small, isolated parcels adjacent to private or state land. Successful bidders would develop, or possibly log, these lands, taking them out of the public domain forever. How the parcels were picked remains a mystery. Regional forest officials say the sales list was cobbled together over the past month and generally tried to exclude scenic lands that shelter threatened and endangered species. However, during the selection process, the list was not widely distributed, even within the Forest Service agency itself.

The Wilderness Society has usefully detailed a number of the plots that would go up for sale. Click here to see what would be lost. The potential financial gains on this stupid idea are so far outweighed by the social and environmental loss the privatization would represent that even numerous Republican heavyweights have parted with their president on this issue. The idea reminds Sen. Lamar Alexander “of selling off the ‘back 40’ to pay the rent. It’s short-term thinking.” For Sen. Elizabeth Dole, it’s “not a wise investment.” And Republican governor of Missouri Matt Blunt thundered that “Missouri’s natural resources are not a commodity. They are intended to be enjoyed by all, not to be sacrificed to fill holes in the federal budget.” Holes, he might have added, that can be filed in innumerable other ways–starting with rolling back tax cuts for the rich who don’t need them in the slightest.

So let’s try to crash this GOP bake sale. It’s critical to make sure that our fellow citizens know that Bush is looking to sell-off so many acres with a flimsy rationale to cover his privatization scheme. Click here to find contact info for your local newspaper and ask them to take an editorial stand on the issue. Then click here and let your elected reps know that you expect them to oppose Bush’s bill when it comes up for a vote in the next couple of months.

After that, check out what our friends at Environmental Action have done to help us win this fight–they’ve launched an innovative online photo rally, using Flickr, with the goal of collecting 1,000 photos from citizens nationwide showcasing the very places that are at risk. It’s very powerful to be able to see the spots that the GOP wants to turn into strip malls, luxury housing and who knows what else. The album will be delivered to every Member of Congress when it’s complete. It might help turn the tide. And it’s very cool to look at.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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