May 18, 2006

BLM Land Sales Under Bennett Land Bill: It's All Who You Know

The major points of the Bennett/Matheson draft legislation for creating a Lake Powell Pipeline are well known: creation of utility corridors for the 73-mile pipeline and supporting infrastructure; the sale of 25,000 acres of BLM-controlled land; the designation of 219,000 acres as wilderness (including 92,914 acres of BLM land and 123,000 acres already within the boundaries of Zion's National Park); authorization for a highway through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

But given the black box conception of the Bennett/Matheson Land Bill, it's worth noting some of the under-reported elements of the bill, especially those that benefit particular, narrowly defined groups, which might shed light on who had the good Senator's ear as the legislation came together. Just one example: the sale of 25,000 acres of BLM land.

Section 102 of the draft deals with particulars of the land sale; itis titled "Conveyance of Washington County Land." In that section, it states that "The [Interior] Secretary and The County, [after consultation with the State] shall jointly select which parcels of land" will be sold (102 (e)). This means County commissioners will have the authority to designate who is "qualified" to buy land under the bill (102 (g)).

The bill says "bidders," so it must be that the land would be auctioned off to the highest bidder, right? Absolutely, except when it wouldn't be. Subsection g, "Method of Sale," says that the land shall be sold "through a competitive bidding process, unless otherwise determined by the Secretary." The bill provides no criteria for the Secretary to use to determine whether an auction should take place; it's entirely at his own discretion.

So while talk is of the public getting involved in a "collaborative 'vision process'" and open, annual BLM auctions, in reality, the legislation gives County Commissioners control over selecting the land, and qualifying buyers, and the Interior Secretary can decide to sell the land directly to whoever he chooses.

Conclusion: if you're supporting the Bennett Land Bill because you have aspirations of picking up some BLM land out of it, you'd best start courting some Commissioners ASAP.

References: The Washington County Growth & Conservation Act of 2006 [, pdf]
Environmentalists threaten to kill Bennett's plan, by Joe Baird [, also at]

April 22, 2006

1966: Stop The Glenwood Canyon Highway!

glen_canyon_aspen.jpgIn the second edition of the short-lived Aspen Magazine, published in early 1966, an anonymous author lamented the impending destruction of a narrow 12-mile stretch of Glenwood Canyon in order to create the Glenwood Canyon Highway (now I-70).

Perhaps the time has come when we must practice conservation at our doorsteps, and not be content with merely preserving wilderness areas in isolated sections. In a way, the canyon is a symbol of the kind of decision communities all over the U.S. are having to make. Do we let the U.S. turn into a maze of mass habitation and transportation, allowing highways to blast through anywhere to speed us from one strip city to the next, letting urban sprawl ooze across the landscape like festering sores?
Or do we decide to preserve and treasure what we have not way off in the wilderness, but right in the midst of where people are living where it can be enjoyed daily. No wonder plans are afoot to flood parts of Grand Canyon and saw the Redwoods into lumber; if people won't get disturbed about what is going on right where they live, why will they care about destruction in remote areas?
Hate to tell him out that turned out. But on the bright side, at least they didn't flood the Grand Canyon.

Aspen No. 2, Item 6: Farewell To A Canyon []
Glen Canyon Dam []


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