All that talk of “smart growth” aside, the rate at which the nation’s privately held farmland, forests, and wetlands are being lost to development has more than doubled since 1992, according to a study released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost 16 million acres of land were converted to development over the five-year period between 1992 and 1997, compared to 13.9 million acres over the entire decade from 1982 to 1992. Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina have seen the most land converted to development since 1992. With the report’s release, VP Al Gore took the opportunity to remind voters that he doesn’t much like the effects of development: “Too much of our precious open space is being gobbled up by sprawl.” Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) is trying to please both Republicans and Democrats with a smart-growth program — but so far to no avail.