Federal Land-Grabs Are Destroying American Dream

This Congress has seen a tsunami of federal land-grab legislation and land lock-ups, passed with bipartisan support and signed by the President, even in the face of many pleas to protect private landownership and multiple-use of our public lands.

America has undergone a massive period of galloping government land acquisition with essentially no oversight or accounting whatsoever.

Every time any level of government takes more land, there is less for the use of a free and productive society, less for use in producing the food, fiber, minerals and energy, less for private ownership, private conservation, and pursuing the American dream.

American taxpayers have a right to know how much land that the government owns — and we should demand a clear accounting. The most careful accounting by various organizations suggests that governments now own approximately 50% of all the land in the nation.

Thirty years ago, liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith was surprised at the level of federal ownership and remarked, “The public lands of the United States exceed the combined areas of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary and Albania. Where socialized ownership of land is concerned, only the U.S.S.R. and China can claim company with the United States.” And they have undergone major divestment of government land ownership while the U.S. proceeds along the Green-brick path to socialism.

Millions of acres are being added to federal land ownership every year, as well as at all other levels, yet there isn’t any systematic way to track the total.

Over the last few Congresses, congressmen have been holding hearings and markups on land grab bills and rushing them to the floor, often in huge omnibus package bills and having them passed under suspension of the rules with little if any debate, no amendments and under cover of an unaccountable voice vote. No one even seems to care what the total acreage is or what the total costs and the long term impacts.

For example, consider the new Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail. All we know is that it’s 600 miles long and supposedly vital to the survival of our nation. Did anyone ask how wide this trail will end up being or how much land will the National Park Service (NPS) have to buy, acquire, or get their allies to condemn?

How much of the trail will run on government land, how much along highways, byways, bike trails, paths, etc? How much buffer zone will they eventually try to create along sides of trail to “protect” it? How much activity that can be seen from the trail will the NPS take steps to halt?

These issues are settled only long after Congress passes these laws. Such debates regarding the extent of buffers zones and view sheds still continue concerning the Appalachian Trail — and that Congress officially designated as “protected” 30 years ago.

Another area of concern is the ever-growing amount of American land being locked up in wilderness areas in the National Wilderness System. While these lands are predominantly government lands, they are incorporated into a federal regulatory system which prohibits all exploration for and development of natural resources, minerals or energy resources. There is no oil and gas exploration or development, no access to minerals, no timber harvest.

All mechanized and motorized equipment is prohibited from use in Wilderness, including bicycles, chainsaws to clear trails after storms or fires and helicopter landings to rescue injured hikers.

Currently, the total acreage in federally designated wilderness areas is 107,514,938 acres. That is larger than the entire state of California plus the states of New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.

That seems quite large to me. But then I still believe in the American vision of freedom and private ownership of land and resources and for still believing in our forefathers’ vision of a land of liberty without the yoke of the old world’s ownership of all the land by the government and its chosen landed elite. We’re now recreating this age-old tyranny of serfdom with our system of land-owning governments and their green allies.