Bush supports Clinton land grab

By Tom DeWeese
web posted March 5, 2001

No savior of property rights
No savior of property rights

For those who thought the election of President Bush was the solution to America's property rights problems, think again. The issue of property rights is rapidly emerging as a major battleground for those who remain legitimately fearful of the federal appetite for more and more land. This runs counter to the basis for our entire economy, the right to own and manage land for its development and use.

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton has stated that the Bush administration will not overturn any of former President Clinton's arbitrary designation of millions of acres of federal land as "national monuments", putting them off-limits to mining, timber, grazing, and other commercial activity.

Instead, the Bush administration offers vague promises of working with western lawmakers and private property owners to 'adjust the boundaries' and 'alter the rules' governing commercial activities.

This is Beltway talk for doing nothing. The federal government currently owns an estimated quarter of the entire landmass of the nation. It is land Congress has mandated for 'multiple use' to insure that the vast natural resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and timber can be accessed to meet our current and future needs. This do-nothing property policy, coupled with an apparent lack of an energy policy, exists despite the obvious need to vigorously reverse the restrictions put in place by the Clinton administration.

We can applaud the Bush administration's talk about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but federal bans remain in place against off-shore oil drilling and billions of dollars of high grade coal remain off limits in Utah. When you add in the bans on roads to access the vast timber resources of national forests, what you have is former President Clinton's policies.

I am still waiting to hear any member of the Bush administration mention the thousands of jobs that have been lost due to the actions of the Clinton administration. The economic impact on Western States, in particular, is incalculable and the opportunity to reverse it awaits action.

Yet another threat continues in the form of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). The President's budget speech referenced the ability of the government to continue acquiring more privately owned property, signaling a readiness to use CARA as an inexhaustible source of funding for more federal land grabs. The American Policy Center and other property rights advocates will be far more vocal in our demand to defeat this legislation.

The "honeymoon" is already over. Those who have waited patiently and worked hard to install a new Republican administration will not be satisfied with slippery rhetoric.

Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, an activist think tank and a contributor. The Center maintains a website at www.americanpolicy.org.

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