Have you heard of the “Great Outdoors Initiative”? Chances are, you haven’t. But across the country, White House officials have been meeting quietly with environmental groups to map out government plans for acquiring untold millions of acres of both public and private land. It’s another stealthy power grab through executive order that promises to radically transform the American way of life.
In April, President Obama issued a memorandum outlining his “21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors.” It was addressed to the interior secretary, the agriculture secretary, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. The memo called on the officials to conduct “listening and learning sessions” with the public to “identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government” to “protect” outdoor spaces. Eighteen of 25 planned sessions have already been held. But there’s much more to the agenda than simply “reconnecting Americans to nature.”
The federal government, as the memo boasted, is the nation’s “largest land manager.” It already owns roughly one of every three acres in the United States. This is apparently not enough. At a “listening session” in New Hampshire last week, government bureaucrats trained their sights on millions of private forest land throughout the New England region. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crusaded for “the need for additional attention to the Land and Water Conservation Fund — and the need to promptly support full funding of that fund.”
Property owners have every reason to be worried. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a pet project of green radicals who want the decades-old government slush fund for buying up private lands to be freed from congressional appropriations oversight. It’s paid for primarily with receipts from the government’s offshore oil-and-gas leases. Both Senate and House Democrats have included $900 million in full LWCF funding, not subject to congressional approval, in their energy/BP-oil-spill legislative packages. The Democrats have also included a provision in these packages that would require the federal government to take over energy permitting in state waters, which provoked an outcry from Texas state officials, who sent a letter of protest to Capitol Hill last month:
In light of these federal failures, it is incomprehensible that the United States Congress is entertaining proposals that expand federal authority over oil and gas drilling in state waters and lands long regulated by states. . . . Given the track record, putting the federal government in charge of energy production on state lands and waters not only breaks years of successful precedent and threatens the 10th Amendment to the United Sates Constitution, but it also undermines common sense and threatens the environmental and economic security of our state’s citizens.