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25 October 2011

Repudiation: Jason Chaffetz Wants To Dispose of Wilderness

Representative Chaffetz (R), Utah, has proposed a bill titled:  Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011.  According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the idea is to sell off over three million acres across ten Western states.  Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington State are the ten.  The specific lands to be sold are not specified in the legislation, but are expected to include wilderness areas, endangered species habitat, wetlands, and other pristine acreage.

It is ironic that it was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who was a significant proponent of conservation.  One of his most lasting legacies was his significant role in the creation of 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 National Forests, among other works of conservation. Roosevelt was instrumental in conserving about 230 million acres (930,000 km2) of American soil among various parks and other federal projects.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “While there are national treasures worthy of federal protection, there are lands that should be returned to private ownership,” Chaffetz said in introducing his legislation earlier this year. “If the land serves no public purpose and is ‘identified for disposal,’ let’s return it to private ownership.”

Incredibly obvious to anyone who has spent time in our National Forests or worked with the conservationists and environmentalists, empty land is not empty and does serve a public purpose.  Teddy Roosevelt saw the value in setting aside lands for all time.  Once developed, these lands would take decades, if not centuries, to restore.  The birds and animals that reside in these lands would have their habitat destroyed.  Land does not have to be built upon and industrialized to have value.  Land is not disposable.

Some, perhaps most, of the sold land would undoubtedly be stripped of extant forests.  This would exacerbate the ongoing climate change.  This is the problem that Republicans continue to deny and hide facts that prove climate change is occurring.  For our own sake, we must conserve the wild lands that remain.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

Small update.  Above, Mr. Chaffetz says "lands that should be returned to private ownership."  As I was reminded by the commenters at Joe My God, those lands were never privately owned.  Those lands never should be.

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