Hellacious Acres
Time to freeze Uncle Sam's real-estate portfolio.


Deroy Murdock

“This is only part of the entire document, and just addresses BLM,” says Melissa Subbotin, spokeswoman for the Congressional Western Caucus. “The Obama Administration has refused to turn over the rest of this memo, even though they publicly have acknowledged that there are sections concerning the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The true designs of this entire document are enormous.” Subbotin adds, “It is exceptionally frustrating for us. Those who drafted this memo are gleaning from a host of sources. There really isn’t much succinct definition to their intentions, motivation, or long-term goals — other than simply to lock up public land and put an end to multiple use.”

The notion of even more soil under Uncle Sam’s boots is aggravating given the chaotic state of the federal land portfolio. According to the Congressional Research Service, BLM already has a deferred-maintenance backlog of at least $480 million. At the Fish and Wildlife Service, $2.4 billion in fixes cry for attention. The U.S. Forest Service needs $5.3 billion of work, while the National Park Service awaits $8.2 billion in road, trail, and building renovations. Why not perform these repairs before nabbing more land to neglect?

Failed federal stewardship — from refusing to thin dense foliage to restricting salvage logging of dead trees — lets lightning bolts transform forests into ashes. Nationalizing more acres will mean even more wildfires, which will cremate birds, butterflies, and other creatures.

“In business, insolvent organizations typically don’t buy more assets,” observes Reed Watson, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. “Instead, valuable parts are broken up and purchased by more effective managers who, then, increase revenues and generate profits. Uncle Sam is doing exactly the opposite.”

With America $13.45 trillion in debt, spending reduction must start somewhere. Freezing Washington’s real-estate empire is an excellent place for the incoming Congress to exhibit a scintilla of fiscal sanity.

– Deroy Murdock is a syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana.