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November 17, 2005

Are Pombo's 'Mining Provisions' a Giveaway?

The Oregonion's Michael Milstein reports (Nov. 17)

Miners could buy up national forest and other public lands in Oregon and Washington under a provision buried in a hulking budget bill expected to go before Congress this week.

Prices for the federal land would start at $1,000 an acre or fair market value, whichever is more. But the price would not include the value of gold, silver or whatever other prized minerals lie below the surface.

Though the land would be sold for mining, buyers could do whatever they want with it once it's theirs. That includes the building of houses, resorts or other businesses, and represents a potentially significant privatization of lands under control of the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. The measure's backers said the sales would affect no more than 360,000 acres of the West's public lands, which have become a recreational playground for the masses. But experts dispute that tally, saying it is much higher, possibly shifting millions of acres into private ownership.

"It's clearly a kind of giant real estate transfer," said John Leshy, the top lawyer in the Interior Department under the Clinton administration and now a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law. …

Even if the provision passes the House, it might not survive. That's because the Senate version of the budget bill does not include the provision, and senators would have to agree to accept it.

Republican lawmakers who drafted the provision said it updates the laws by increasing the sale price of land and fees miners must pay. But it also alters the laws by offering miners new and easier ways to lay claim to land and buy it, others said.

"It doesn't really meet the laugh test," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who has long argued that taxpayers should be better compensated by miners who make use of public land. "It's a pretty bad deal for the taxpayers." …

The Environmental Working Group calls the bill "the largest land sell-off in modern American history."

The US House of Representatives Committee on Resources justifies its provision and blasts back at critics here

{Update, Nov 18}

This Bill Passed the Full House today. Now it gets a chance to compete with or compromise with whatever Senate side Bill passes.

Mike Dombeck, retired Forest Service Chief adds this in today's LA Times, titled Your Birthright, Up for Grabs

... greed-driven special interest supporters ... want to expand the sale of public lands to allow any individual or corporation to stake a mining claim and purchase it without having to prove that it contains minerals. This is so broadly defined as to enable developers, for example, to buy federal land at bargain-basement prices and "flip" it quickly for projects such as ski chalets or housing units.

The public would never stand for this if it were done in the open, so the provision was tucked inside the huge budget-cutting bill being considered by Congress this week. There, it was obscured by bigger issues, such as offshore drilling.

Posted by Dave on November 17, 2005 at 09:22 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: Wes Rolley

I have been commenting on Richard Pombo for several years, hoping to hoist him on his own petard of "sound science." After reviewing his private property statement and mis-statements (e.g: the kit fox myth) I find it hard to believe that this law is anything other than the massive land sale that its detractors claim. Going point by point through the Resoureces Committee most recent release on the Fiction / Fact of the case only confirms my belief that this is the case. Pombo even admintted as much with a reporter from KGO (ABC affiliate in San Francisco).

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy: "There is no reason for the federal government to own over half the state of California."

ABC7's Mark Matthews: "Are we be better off in private ownership?"

Rep. Pombo: "I believe most of it would be."

link: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=politics&id=3639761

I am happy to have found this site. It should be a valuable resource when I am trying to compare Resources Committee statements with reality. My own forest service experience was long ago and short lived. (~1960 on the Kaibab out of Williams, AZ.)

Wes Rolley | Nov 25, 2005 10:24:17 PM

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