Congress want to sell off all the land owned by the federal government. Up yours, Congress!
The largest landholder in the United States are the very citizens of the United States. We own, at last check, 28% of all the landmass of the entire nation. That’s about 636 million acres or just shy of 1 million square miles of land. If you look at a map of the United States showing federally owned and controlled lands you will see that said ownership is disproportionally distributed to the Western states starting at the Rockies on over to the Pacific. There are some big reasons for this:
1) None of this land was originally granted to individuals via the King of England. Most of the borders of East Coast states are the way they are because they were originally land grants to individuals from the King of England.
2) Mountains are hard to settle. Mountains have resources but it also sucks to try and live there if all the technology you have at the time is a mule and a shovel. When the original homesteading was taking place during the Western expansion of the mid 19th century people didn’t homestead the mountains simply because its hard to farm a mountain.
3) The desert doesn’t grow crops. Try as we might, salty soils with no rain don’t grow food. So, like the mountains, the deserts of the Southwest were not homesteaded.
This is OK, though. Thanks to the 1872 Mining Act citizens of the United States are allowed access to federal lands. It is here where we fish, hunt, hike, camp, rock hound/prospect, hold music festivals, and just enjoy the splendor of nature. This is why camping and hiking in the west is so much better than camping and hiking in the East. Unlike the East coast we aren’t trespassing anywhere to get to all the good spots.
As America moved West people staked mining claims, temporary renewable rights to minerals found in a particular location. As these mining claims grew into operational mines we would see temporary, tough-to-live-in, boom towns pop up around them. As the mineral resources waned so did the towns (leaving behind my beloved ghost towns). Only in the rare instance, when a mine may produce valuable ore for years to come, could the claim owner petition the US government for a deed to the land and assume ownership of said real property. The US government would then charge the company or person a nominal fee to buy the land from the Feds. This was known as a “patented mining claim”.
This system of obtaining real property was allowed up until 1994 when the Brush Wellman Corporation (now known as Materion), submitted a land patent application to assume somewhere near 4 square miles of land. This chunk of real estate contained somewhere in the neighborhood of (in today’s dollars) $50-150 billion dollars in beryllium. Essentially 90% of the of the world’s supply of this extremely rare, extremely useful, and extremely valuable metal. How much did Brush Wellman pay for tens of billions of dollars in minerals owned by you and me? About $41,000 (in today’s dollars). When the American people found out about how hosed we got on the land deal a roar echoed through Congress and a moratorium was established. Since 1994 no one has been allowed to patent a mining claim staked on federal lands.
Fast forward twenty years and I give the you 114th Congress. These people truly suck. The Republicans enjoy a large majority in the House and control the Senate. They accomplished this thanks to the gerrymandering of districts by Republican controlled state legislatures. Thus, Republicans control the House despite losing the general election by 1.37 million votes. What is one of the major things the 114th Congress want to do with their ill-gotten majority? Sell everything we own.
It is starting small. Essentially, Congress thinks that by turning all control of current Federal lands over to the states in which these lands are found then it will be easier for oil and gas, mining, and logging companies to then grease the palms of state legislatures to purchase vast quantities of state lands. The states do not have the resources to manage these lands as evidence by my own state (Washington) relinquishing control of dozens of state parks to city governments. If states do not have the budgets to manage the lands they have now, how are they going to manage the tens of millions of acres of new land they suddenly have thrust upon them by the federal government?
The ploy is simple, Congress wants to sell your lands to corporations who donate heavily to their campaigns. if we allow them to do this, we’re screwed. Why?
Here is why: The 1872 Mining Act allows us access to federal lands. If the lands are no longer federal our outdoor activities will no longer be protected by this Act. There is a moratorium on selling federal lands, but there is no moratorium on selling state lands. Congress is out to screw us over, and the moment we have a president in the White House who agrees with them and refuses to veto their sly moves, we boned.