In an ominous new development, Congress may soon authorize private "patents" of public land, a wildly outdated and abused provision of an 1872 mining law. The patents are functionally equivalent to fee-simple purchases of the land, which raises the distinct possibility that private individuals and corporations could stake mining claims -- and then buy the land -- in national forests, wilderness areas, and even national parks. Mining, as it is currently practiced, is so ecologically disastrous there are too many examples of environmental degradation to mention here. But the new Congressional legislation would actually worsen matters. Not only would it …
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Eric de Place
Eric de Place is a senior researcher at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank.