High On America’s Christmas List: Get the Federal Government out of Managing our Lands

Source: Kevin Eddy, Flickr.comAs the election showed, the American people would not approve Sen. Reid’s efforts to sneak through a massive, far-reaching omnibus package that would buy up and tie up millions of acres of federal lands. Sadly, the people have no say in the matter.

The federal lands omnibus bill, which includes over 100 federal land-grab bills the Democrats have not been able to pass into law this legislative session, is on a fast track this lame-duck session and could come up for a vote this week.

The package would encumber millions of acres in over 13 states if enacted. Many of these bills, thrown together in a bundle that would make Santa jealous, would further extend the EPA’s and Interior’s authority over state law; block many federal lands from oil and gas leasing, hiking up energy costs for consumers; add to the federal deficit; and in some cases, limit immigration border patrol on border lands designated federal wilderness areas.

Further impacts and the magnitude of the package are difficult to assess because the drafting of the legislation is taking place behind closed doors. Sen. Reid is giving the public no time to grasp, let alone scrutinize, the content of hundreds of federal land acquisition measures.

Nor will the rush to pass answer crucial questions such as why the American people should be forced to turn even more land and natural resources to federal control when the government can’t manage the lands it already has. As numerous studies have found, Washington has failed in many areas as a steward of these precious lands. The GAO report, in particular, warned of the Interior Department’s inability to improve the conditions of the nation’s natural resources, particularly “in light of the federal deficit and long-term fiscal challenges facing the nation.”

Republicans, such as Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Hastings—who accurately is calling this the “Frankenstein bill”—are strongly against the bundled legislation, as are some Democrats who feel they have been left out of the legislative process in the rush to pass it.

Washington should abandon its hush-rush to acquire millions of acres of precious lands that should be left in the hands of the American people.

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