With an announcement today of a “federal property board” to evaluate and propose the sale of federal assets, President Obama demonstrated again his impeccable gift for exceptionally poor timing.
"For too long red tape and politics have prevented the government from moving forward on these fronts," the official said, adding that the board was expected to return $15 billion over the first three years in operation.This announcement comes just as members of Congress from Montana and Idaho are bringing legislation to the floor that would require Congressional approval before permanently closing federal lands to mineral and energy exploration.
The White House estimates there are around 14,000 federal properties designated as excess, plus thousands of others which are either no longer needed, or are underutilized.
Democrat Obama, under intense pressure from his Republican opponents to cut government spending and narrow a budget deficit estimated at $1.645 trillion this fiscal year, is trying to squeeze savings by making the government more efficient.
Rehberg said his bill is needed because it was revealed last year that the Department of the Interior was planning to declare millions of acres in Montana as a national monument. "This 'Treasured Landscapes' plan relied heavily on input from a few special interest groups and seeks to abuse the Antiquities Act for the presidential designation of National Monuments across the west, including Montana," Rehberg said.Thus, the Obama Administration is proposing the sale of federal property—although presumably only in urban areas—to generate a mere $15 billion over the next three years while at the same time closing off millions of acres of federal land to lucrative uses such as lumber, mining, cattle grazing, and energy drilling. According to the Bureau of Land Management’s own website:
The public lands provide significant economic benefits to the Nation and to states and counties where these lands are located. Revenues generated from public lands make BLM one of the top revenue-generating agencies in the Federal government. In 2007, for instance, BLM’s onshore mineral leasing activities will generate an estimated $4.5 billion in receipts from royalties, bonuses, and rentals that are collected by the Minerals Management Service. Approximately half of these revenues will be returned to the States where the mineral leasing occurred.A savings of $15 billion is trivial compared to the overall deficit and is made even more laughable when compared to the loss of federal revenue for the use of public lands. The duplicity of this maneuver is enough to shock even the most cynical observer of national politics.