Friday, November 11, 2005

Budget Package Includes Worst Land Grab in American History

The U.S. House of Representatives now stalled budget bill contains a less noticed provision (than the ANWR controversy) that would
let foreign mining companies, real estate speculators, oil and mining conglomerates, or anyone else purchase up to 350 million acres of American taxpayers’ lands for as little as $1,000 per acre.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has analyzed the national parks, forests, wilderness areas and other natural treasures at risk in 13 western states ( Among the lands Rep. Pombo’s proposal puts up for sale are areas in or near Yosemite, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Grand Canyon national parks, some of America’s last, best wild places.

Bipartisan opposition over Pombo’s land sale has grown, with Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) asking House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) to strip the Pombo provision from the spending bill.

“We’re cutting food stamps, student loans and Medicaid to deal with our skyrocketing federal deficit, but Congress is still considering Richard Pombo’s costly special interest giveaway of priceless public lands at rock-bottom prices,” Richard Wiles, EWG’s senior vice president, said. “With no hearings or even a minute of legislative oversight, this outrageous deal treats taxpayers’ lands like an ATM machine for anyone who wants to build a subdivision, strip mall or mining operation on our most valuable lands.”

Worst Land Grab in American History

Notes from below on blog:
On the table last Thursday: selling millions of dollars of public land (with valuable minerals underneath) for the price of dirt and without royalties. This deal would make the former drunken leader of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, proud as it was the selling of their national wealth for next to nothing (as well as refusing to tax the wealthy) that made Russia what it is today--the laughing stock of the world, unable to keep it's infrastructure serviceable or its military in fighting order.

But would we rather sit on this land and get nothing for it? Absolutely not. Like with oil and gas claims we could collect royalties from any products produced from it. This would be a continuing resource for our children as well as protecting our treasured undeveloped land.

From EWG's report on the subject: Parks and Public Lands Would be Up For Sale come more details:

The impact of the Pombo proposal would be staggering. It would:
  • Put 5.7 million acres of public lands with existing mining claims up for sale immediately upon passage, including more than 2 million acres of claims inside or with 5 miles of national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national forests and prized public assets.

  • Open up as many as 350 million acres of public lands for sale to the highest bidder.

  • Eliminate the current requirement that mining claim holders demonstrate valuable mineral deposits under the land.

Site also has a chart showing how many acres could be available in each state.

The Washington Post notes:
Congress has barred the government from selling land outright to mining companies since 1994, on the grounds that they should lease public land the same way oil and gas firms do to extract the minerals below. But House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) said the measure would cut the deficit

Ah, Bush's deficit. That's what this is all about. Sell off our resources to mask the president's terrible stewardship.

Again this is low enough profile that if we don't get our friends and neighbors talking about this it will left in the budget bill and be passed stealthily.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It's a national issue.

The Post also notes that land promised to them in a deal with Congress could be put up for sale too. Isn't DC the area without representation in Congress?

Others without representation are crying fowl too.

Indian Country Today says:
The federal government considers 90 percent of Western Shoshone lands as federal land. The Western Shoshone have successfully worked to defeat past attempts to privatize their homelands, and land that could be sold lies within the boundaries of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, established for the Western Shoshone.

''For the Western Shoshone people, this struggle is not just one of who owns the land, but one of deep cultural and spiritual significance. As a people we are deeply rooted to the lands where we were placed by the Father God (Ah-Peh) and have a responsibility to safeguard those lands,'' the Western Shoshone said in a prepared statement.

More tribes than the Western Shoshone need to be concerned: the entire western half of the United States could be affected. Millions of acres of land controlled by the federal government lie within the boundaries of aboriginal homelands of most Western tribes, or are part of land claims or are found just adjacent to reservations.


Treaty concerns, such as off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering, will be affected. Access to sacred sites may be limited or denied by private owners. Supporters of American Indian treaties, such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, claim that approval of this budget package could be ''the final blow to indigenous nations and communities attempting to re-establish title or use of what is rightfully theirs.''


For years, the Lakota of South Dakota have not accepted a land settlement from the federal government for the taking of the Black Hills. The Lakota continue to request the return of the sacred Black Hills. Open-pit gold and feldspar mines pock the landscape of the Black Hills and the protectors worry the land will also be up for sale for other development. Many mining claims have been taken out in the Black Hills.

''Would Rep. Pombo consider that indigenous sovereign nations be given first right of refusal before ever selling federally held public lands to corporate interests? The Black Hills are today known to be indigenous homelands, and members of the Bear Butte International Alliance certainly do not favor Congress offering for sale to mining interests our sacred landscapes,'' said Nancy Kile, secretary of the Defenders of the Black Hills and the Bear Butte International Alliance.

John Leshy, former solicitor in the Department of Interior under the Clinton administration, told the Denver Post that millions of mining claims were filed over the past two centuries and it wouldn't be difficult for a company to find a claim. He said, ''It's not about mining; it's about real estate.''


''It is our spiritual teaching that the Earth is our mother and to try to remove us from our lands or displace us by privatization efforts would be to commit spiritual genocide on our people,'' stated a Western Shoshone Defense Project written statement.
Federal sale may include treaty lands


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