White House wants to auction off 300,000 acres of public land

The Bush administration has proposed a sell-off of over $1 billon worth of public land over the next five to 10 years. Proceeds from the auctions of more than 300,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management holdings would largely go to rural schools and roads, funding for which has been cut by, um, the Bush administration. Environmental historian Char Miller calls the scheme “a fire sale of public lands … utterly unprecedented.” Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department undersecretary in charge of the Forest Service, claims timber, oil, and gas interests weren’t directly consulted on that agency’s sale plans — though some of the plots might have been chosen based on such “conversations in recent months and years.” Ahem. While Rey says the national forest parcels on the block are not ecologically vital, some conservationists worry that the sales may break up important wildlife corridors and bring development to the banks of scenic rivers. Congress would need to approve the plan before it could go into effect.