Selling forests no wayto fix budget problems
A proposal to sell off national forest lands to fund schools and roads is poor fiscal policy and poor public land policy.The Bush administration has recommended getting rid of 200,000 acres of national forest land. Among them are 1,240 acres on the White River National Forest, including parcels near Redstone, Parachute and Sunlight Mountain Resort.The idea is to generate $800 million to make up for decreasing national forest timber revenues used to fund rural schools and roads in counties with national forests.But once these forests are gone, they’re gone for good, even though the need for school and road funding will go on. We’ll have given up priceless public property simply to make up a shortfall for the short term, while the long-term funding problem will remain.The administration’s argument is that the parcels to be sold are isolated or inefficient to manage. That may very well be the case. But historically, the solution to dealing with such isolated tracts has been to trade them for, or use the revenues from their sales to purchase, other properties that would be valuable as public lands. As an example, this has been a means for acquiring private inholdings in wilderness areas.The net result should be no net loss in public lands – at least not as long as we believe in the importance of having public lands, as places with recreational, natural resource and environmental values.The outcry during the current public comment period over the proposals is entirely warranted. Let’s save the national forests fire sales for those post-wildfire logging projects. Liquidating priceless public assets to pay the bills is no way to meet budget needs or treat our public lands.Even more disconcerting is that the administration made the Forest Service come up with a list of proposed land for sale so fast that it ended up including a Summit County roadless parcel and land containing a trailhead to a popular Fourteener on its list.It’s enough to make one wonder about our government’s so-called stewardship of public lands. Somewhere, Smokey Bear is shedding a tear.
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