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Land for Us, but Not for You and Me

April 4, 2011

Heck, I’ll let Ed Morrissey sum it up:

The United States already has over $14,000,000,000,000 in debt, and runs an annual budget deficit of more than $1,600,000,000,000.  The federal government already owns almost a third of all land in the United States, which precludes it from commercial use in most cases, and which costs taxpayers a fortune to maintain.  Barack Obama thinks this situation has to change — which is why he’s proposing to, er, buy more land and spend more on conservation:

The article from the Post has more details, I saw this as the most interesting part:

Backers of the fund say it’s important for Congress to keep pumping money into it as the nation loses roughly 3 million acres to development each year. They say it’s a race against time, noting that a third of the nation’s developed land was developed from 1982 to 2007. The National Park Service has identified 1.8 million additional acres that it wants to acquire, at a cost of $1.9 billion.

So that’s about a thousand an acre.  While that seems a lot, it does two things.  First, it blocks any cheaper sales to organizations that might develop the land.  The government might be able to shell out that kind of cash — you know since it comes off our backs.  That said, very few companies are going to be able to purchase land at that cost in order to explore it.  So the government is setting a ceiling on land that can be developed in large parcels.  At the same time, there’s a solid floor being set for people who would want to buy or sell in smaller quantites.  I own an acre of land near a BLM boundary.  I wonder HOW MUCH (not if) a tacit valuation of government land this low affects my property.  So setting the price defines the market, perhaps in ways even the government doesn’t intend.

Here’s another passage:

Obama is proud of his record on public lands. In his first months in office, he signed legislation that designated 2 million acres of wilderness, including more than 1,000 miles of wild scenic rivers and three national parks. He wants the impact of his new plan to be felt nationwide. It calls for creating “a new generation of safe, clean, accessible great urban parks and community green spaces.”

I wonder what’s more important… enabling the peeps to access government land, or ensuring that those same peeps migh have access to land of their own?  It’s a somewhat unfair question, and likely one that we could argue all day.  Do people really need to own?  Isn’t that what shoved us into the mortgage crisis in the first place?  Well, yea, but I’m not sure I want to over-correct that by locking up land in the hands of the government so the government can do nothing with it and suck more money from me to maintain it.

To be clear, I probably use more national land than most of you do in any given year.  I pay the extra “tax” to use some of it in the form of a permit to park my car at trailheads all over the northwest.  I’m all for public land, and I’ll enthusiastically use it when I can.  But I’m not game to give any of mine up, or have you give yours up, if it’s not going to be put to any better use than the stuff the government already has.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 3:09 am

    In the U.K. the government proposed to sell lots of public-owned forest’s, however there were huge protests. I dont believe selling any land will work, despite the cost to maintain it. Like you say, perhaps making better use of the public land might help.

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