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Barack Obama – Land Speculator?

January 2, 2017

People acquire land all the time, sometimes from willing sellers and other times by force of law.

Governments simply take it, using the law or a regulation to acquire it.

The United States government owned about 640,000,00 acres until December 30, 2016.  It added another 1,700,000 acres on that date.

Our government owns land for all sorts of reasons, but the vast majority is in the form of national monuments and parks.

That trend began with America’s oldest national park, Yellowstone, which has land area in Idaho, Montana but mostly in Wyoming.

Forty nine percent of all Federally controlled land is held in just 11 western states, some of which are almost totally owned or controlled by the Federal Government (Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Alaska.)

This table shows the eleven states. Hawaii is not represented here, but it is 20.3% Federally owned.

State % of state land Total State land area. Acres Federally Owned added
AZ 42.3% 72,688,000 30,747,024
AK 61.8% 52,933,120 32,712,668
CA 47.7% 100,206,720 47,798,605
CO 36.2% 66,485,760 24,067,845
ID 61.7% 52,933,120 32,659,735
OR 53.0% 61,598,720 32,647,322
MT 28.9% 93,271,040 26,955,331
NM 34.7% 77,766,040 26,984,816
NV 81.8% 70,264,320 57,476,214 .35M
UT 66.5% 52,696,960 35,043,478 1.35M
WY 48.2% 62,343,040 30,049,345
Totals 763,186,840 377,142,383 1.7M

In trade for this land, the Department of the Interior reports it paid out $451.6 million dollars in PILT (Payment in lieu of taxes) payments to local and state governments on June 22, 2016. That averages just a little over $1.15 per acre if you count Hawaii.

That amount is a pittance, compared to the amounts spent to staff, manage and maintain the Federal lands.

Offsetting that of course are any entrance fees, licensing fees and other non-tax revenue.

How much is too much?

Some of the wildest and most beautiful land in the world is encompassed by national parks, but at some point you have to start to wonder just how much land the Federal government should own, before it has effectively taken over a state.

Certainly the top four have little land left with which to generate jobs and income for their residents. Arizona barely dodged having another 1.7 million acres appropriated.

President Obama had already locked up some 553 million acres during his term in office before adding this latest present to environmentalists and the Native Americans.

That is sometimes mitigated by the tourist dollars the parks generate, but often that is reserved for a few areas adjacent to the parks.

The most popular parks are already suffering from their own popularity.

Yellowstone, which hosts between three and four million visitors a year, is one giant parking lot during the summer months, with traffic bumper-to-bumper as people stop, get out of their cars  and take pictures of the human-habituated animal life. So much for enjoying nature.

yellowston-tourists

Photo Credit: 4.bp.blogspot.com

That many people have an impact on the wildlife, no matter how carefully park personnel try to minimize animal-human interaction. Not a year goes by without a human-animal or human-topography interaction resulting in injury and even death to one or the other.

The usual excuse for appropriating land is the 1906 Antiquities Act, which interestingly enough, doesn’t require ANY public input on decisions made under its auspices.

Take the newly minted Bears Ears National Monument. The central premise of that decision is that it contains Native American cultural history.

Certainly, ancient petroglyphs and burial grounds are part of the culture of America’s oldest immigrant population.

Still, it is doubtful that there is a petroglyph or gravesite on every square foot of the 1.35 million acres of the monument.

Critics note that anti-fossil fuel environmental groups often have a disproportionate influence on which areas receive federal “protection.”

They also note that repeated attempts by the various states to meld approaches that seek to protect rightfully important cultural and wild lands without effectively locking it away from all other uses are generally unsuccessful.

As President Obama scrambles to secure whatever positive parts of his legacy remain more or less intact, has he only succeeded in cementing his image as the most biased and divisive POTUS in American history?

Looking at his continued desire to appeal to and appease narrow special interest groups, that’s a distinct possibility.

From → op-ed

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