Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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In exchange for the “protection,” a bill that would designate nearly 550,000 acres of new “wilderness” in the Nevada desert -- further blocking access and most productive uses of that land -- would also open up for development 45,000 new acres in rural White Pine County.

The bill, drafted by Nevada Sens. John Ensign and Harry Reid, is one of four similar land-use exchange bills currently under consideration in Washington -- the other three dealing with lands in Idaho and Utah.

Goodness. The worshippers of the earth goddess get half a million new acres fenced off from virtually all human use, in exchange for releasing a mere 45,000 acres for productive human activity? They must be dancing around the campfires and singing cum-ba-ya!

No. Not hardly.

Needless to say, a coalition of 80 conservation groups opposes the measure, charging the plan trades away the 45,000 acres for private development “like currency.”

Oh! That stings.

Members of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project; the Olympia, Wash.-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility; the Haily, Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project; and Salt Lake City’s Glen Canyon Institute have presumably long since moved past exchanging things “like currency,” instead drawing their sustenance from the replicators conveniently located in the mess hall and crew’s quarters of the Starship Enterprise.

“All of them have this quid pro quo strategy of giving away public land in one place for protection in another place,” complains Janine Blaeloch, director of the Western Lands Project. “If wilderness is going to be protected, it should not happen at the cost of losing the rest of our public lands.”

This despite the fact that “With the land sales involved in the legislation, the only lands that are allowed to be sold are those that the Bureau of Land Management has already identified as being suitable for sale,” according to Reid spokesman Jon Summers.

A somewhat more moderate gang of greens, the Wilderness Society (a national group that’s a member of the Nevada Wilderness Coalition) is supporting three of the four bills, including the Reid-Ensign bill. The one exception is a bill affecting Washington County, Utah -- near St. George.

That bill would sell at least 24,300 acres of federal land, while designating 93,000 acres as wilderness.

“These bills are not perfect,” explains Jeremy Garncarz of the slightly more moderate Wilderness Society. “No one is saying they are, but there are some good things here.”

Together, the Nevada and Idaho bills would designate an astonishing 1.4 million acres of new “wilderness,” Mr. Garncarz points out.

“That is substantial. We’re still working with the delegations and other stakeholders to make these bills better.”

(For those not accustomed to the Orwellian Newspeak of the Greens, a “stakeholder” is someone who has convinced a government agency to treat him as though he’s a land owner, even though he or she has not spent a dime to actually buy any of the land in question. For instance, if your neighbor wants to add a second story to his house, and you can convince some bureaucrat to block his plans because the new deck would interfere with your view of the mountains, you’re now a “stakeholder” in his house, without having contributed a single dollar toward paying his mortgage. Pretty nifty, hunh?)

Given that no one has yet acknowledged that allowing these groups a say in public land policy violates the First Amendment, since it has the effect of “establishing” the Gaia-worshipping Green religion as the official faith and policy of the central government, obviously and substantially impairing the interests of those whose contrary religions instruct them that mankind was given the entire earth to steward and to make fruitful, it may be that the White Pine County lands bill drafted by Sens. Ensign and Reid is the best we can currently expect.

Certainly Nevada’s counties are forced into dire financial straights by having 90 percent -- or more -- of their land area controlled by the bureaucratized and capricious central government in Washington, rather than owned and developed by tax-paying citizens who could contribute so much to these struggling communities.

The senators are to be applauded for orchestrating the release of 45,000 acres to private ownership and development in White Pine County -- though Mr. Garncarz is certainly right when he says “These bills are not perfect.”

The ideal plan would be to privatize these lands, without allowing the anti-homo sapien forces to block off another single acre.

Failing that, why not a one-for-one trade? Why should the carpetbaggers who want to shut off vast tracts of our desert as their own personal temples of sterility and silence be honored with 10 times as much land as the actual residents of this state win in exchange for ranching and home- and town-building?

Ms. Blaeloch says she hopes the environmental community will unite in opposition to the bills.

“If you have conservation groups going along with the idea that it’s OK to spend public land like currency, then ultimately public lands are doomed,” she says.

Since by “public lands” Ms. Blaeloch clearly means “western lands arrogantly and arbitrarily managed by the central government in distant Washington City,” let us respond ... “We should be so lucky.”

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