Transportation Bill Could Fund Government Land Grabs

Fodder for Thought

Senate amendment adds $1.1 billion to "conservation fund" war chest to purchase lands currently used for farming and grazing.

Published on: April 11, 2012

Is the government intentionally trying to run our nation’s farming and ranching families out of business?

Maybe, maybe not. It sure seems that way to me

Between EPA’s Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and now a recent highway bill with a possible amendment that could fund even more government land acquisition, I don’t know which is worse.

The highway bill I referred to was recently approved by the U.S. Senate. The $109 billion bill will provide funding for two years to transportation and transit projects across our nation. Whether the House will approve it or not has yet to be seen. The latest news is that the House and Senate have agreed to a temporary bill to extend Highway funds for 90 days. President Obama signed that bill.

So how might this transportation bill affect farming and ranching families? It all stems from the possible addition of an amendment from Montana Senator Max Baucus. Baucus’ amendment funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), providing $1.4 billion for the fiscal years of 2013 and 2014. That’s a massive increase from the annual $323 million that the LWCF currently receives.

The LWCF serves as a fund to help purchase and protect lands across the country. Currently the federal government owns approximately 650 million acres of land, which comprises nearly 30% of all the land area in our nation. Much of this land is dedicated to parks, forests, and wildlife areas.

Apparently the Senate thinks there is a need for more U.S. lands to be purchased and protected by the federal government. When the government owns nearly one out of every three acres in the U.S. already, I personally feel the idea the government needs even more land is ill-conceived and utterly ridiculous.

Currently the LWCF amendment is not included in the temporary highway bill that was approved in the House. However, the House must still decide its position on the full version of the highway bill.  After that, the House-Senate Conference Committee will begin discussions as to whether or not to include the amendment which adds funds for the LWCF.

Massive land grabs are unnecessary and have been proven to have serious negative implications on local jobs, the economy, education and tax revenues. In addition, they threaten ranchers’ access to valuable grazing and rangelands, property rights and availability of natural resources.

At a time when land values are sky-rocketing along with the need for agricultural goods, ranchers cannot afford to compete with the federal government for lands necessary for grazing and agricultural production.  In addition, acquisition of more land would only increase the already overwhelming burden on land management agencies, which are currently behind on requirements to properly manage federal lands. In reality, it would make more sense for the government to evaluate current federal lands in their holdings for possible sale into the private sector.

So, what can you do to ensure that this unnecessary handout to LWCF doesn’t happen? Call your congressional representatives. Help them to understand that the Baucus amendment was approved in the Senate version of the bill and that this amendment would have serious negative implications for American farmers and ranchers. By making the truth known, hopefully we can stop this madness.