Feeding the Federal Behemoth: Federal Lands or Royal Lands?

By Jim Beers
for eco/logic Powerhouse

May 08, 2007

As a controversy brews in Southeastern Colorado over the planned forced acquisition of a half million acres of private property for the purpose of military training, it would be wise to take note of the 800 pound gorilla unmentioned in the corner. I refer to over a half billion acres of land currently owned (not "eased" or "partnered" or "cooperatively managed" with others) - "owned" by the federal government. This represents more than 25 percent of the entire United States.

A thumbnail, and therefore understandable, sketch of this ownership is very hard for average citizens to obtain. It is avoided at meetings and in reports and speeches, as we are shunted from one emergency (save this critter or that landmark or that ecosystem) to another. The reason it is so studiously avoided is that you may not feel the urgency, or start sweating, until your politician or friendly bureaucrat explains that more money and more private land placed in the Refuge, Park, or Forest System is your only hope. If you realize how much land is already "owned" by Uncle Sam, sit down, and ladies, no swooning, as I try to display the "Federal Lands" ownership.

U.S. Refuges

96 Million Acres

U.S. Parks

83 Million Acres

U.S. Forests

193 Million Acres

(From the U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
These totals are hard, even for an old bureaucrat like me to find. I never did find the BLM totals, so it was a question of growing older looking for some hidden numbers, or write something. I opted for the latter.

U.S. Department of Defense

27,824,282 acres

Total Federal Land Ownership

563,128,072 Acres
(more than 25% of the nation!)

(From General Services Administration)

Now, Forest Service employees hardly ever transfer to the Park Service. U.S. Fish and Wildlife managers are likely inserted employees (by politicians) totally unfamiliar with the Refuges, much less the Forests or Parks. BLM employees lose any hope for career advancement if they transfer to another agency. The Forest Service is in the Department of Agriculture, the Fish and Wildlife, and Park Services are in the Department of the Interior, under a different Assistant Secretary of the Interior than the Bureau of Land Management. They all have more contact and work with U.N. bureaucrats than with the Department of Defense. They each have their own government solicitors (lawyers) working as much as any bureaucrat to advance their narrow responsibilities. They each compete fiercely for federal dollars. They each secretly draft legislation for "friendly" Congressional staffers that then clip coupons from their boss (Congressman Snodgrass or Senator Belch) who "introduces" it and get accolades (money and votes) from the rest of us.

Each agency has its own fervid "supporters" (associations, friends, societies) who whine when they aren't fed "more" and lobby when anyone even suggests "less," or something "different."

I submit that they are exactly like Royal Lands and Lords under bygone Kings, and modern dictators like Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

"Our" federal lands are under the "administration" of the President and "funded" by the Congress for special interests, just like an English King "gives" Lord Norfolk those lands, and Woolsey those lands over there, and Lord Cumberland the lands over there. These lands are rewards to supporters, and the ownerships and rights of others living there are secondary to the King's wishes and the desires of his favored Lords. So, unless there is treason, or a new supporter to reward, each Lord keeps what he has, fiercely defends his rights, and constantly seeks to add to his estate. These Lords would no more donate their holdings or parts of their holdings to the King or some other Lord (without some scheme to wind up with more, eventually) than they would surrender their own fortunes or families unless there was an extreme emergency that threatened them. It is the same with these federal agencies.

They each have their own mission, regulations, authorizing legislation, and operations. They each differ such that any thought of them having anything in common never crosses anyone's mind. They are, however, being blended by radicals implementing things like Critical Habitat, Wilderness, Roadless, Native Ecosystem, Invasive Species, Entrance Fee, and other such legislation meant to close the areas to human uses and resource management, as was originally intended when setting them aside. This blending goes unmentioned though, as everything from imaginary plant and animal communities and benign predators are touted as necessary.
So, in 2007, the U.S. Army wants to condemn and acquire a half-million acres of private property in Southeastern Colorado for training under circumstances similar to the Middle East and Central Asia. When I attended Utah State University years ago, (they no longer claim me since I am a global warming and federal power doubter) I was told we had more Iranian students than any other University, because Utah was the closest state to Iranian weather, soils, and agricultural practices in the U.S. It is, therefore, reasonable for the U.S. Army to train somewhere in the West, if they want to simulate the Middle East. But, they already own 40-45 percent of the Western states (more than 80 percent in one state!)

How foolish of me, though. Those aren't defense lands, those lands belong to Lord Parks, Lord Forests, Lord Refuges, and Lord BLM. I apologize, my Lords for suggesting that your lands be made available for training necessary to defend the Nation. "We" (all the refuge, park, forest supporters) didn't get these (refuges, parks, forests) for artillery ranges." (As though the ranchers of Colorado ranched for generations to hold the land until the DoD needed it?)

Think carefully about how absurd this federal estate has become. I know the hunters are thinking they could lose all the marshes (before the radicals shift them all to native uplands) and the historians are all swooning about their viewsheds, roads that must be closed, and the foresters (are there any foresters left?) are all atwitter about loggers denuding the forests and causing extinctions, while ranchers graze the land down to nothing and erosion completes the job of desertification and global warming to destroy our ecosystem. We can't manage any National Park for any wildlife use, or sustainable resource use. We are closing more and more of the forests and refuges to access, use, and management. We can't touch the energy resources under any of these lands. We are squeezing out ranchers and loggers, and strangling rural communities with deadly and harmful predators, in areas that we then propose buying up for a song, to close down more areas. But, I digress.

The federal government could find and use at least 20 appropriate Army training grounds in the Federal or Royal Estate, that would be as good or better than seizing any more private property in Colorado, or elsewhere. If the President (or King) is loathe to tell his Secretaries (or Lords) or the Secretaries (or Lords) are afraid to anger "their" specific supporters, then we need a new King, and American Lords who understand that those are not thier lands, but ours! When "WE the People" need a place to train our Army and they can't come up with locations, while owning a half-billion acres, or 25 percent of the U.S., and half of the West, then we are being served by dumber (like a fox) bureaucrats and politicians than even an old bureaucrat like me sees.

We have come a long way from the Constitutional authorization (and by limiting it, admonition) for the Congress to have limited authority to establish "Post Offices and post Roads"; "a Navy" and "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces"; and "exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings."

And the thing is, you really don't have to be a Supreme Court Justice or Ivy League lawyer to see just how far we have come.

Jim Beers is a retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a U.S. Navy Line Officer in the Western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He resides in Centreville, Virginia, with his wife of many decades.



In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site