Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 land purchases are budgeted to increase 94 percent from FY 2009, reaching $310 million and $75 million at the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), respectively. Shelving federal land purchases at these two agencies would save taxpayers $385 million this year and $1.9 billion over five years.
The federal government currently owns roughly one-third of all U.S. land, including more than half of Idaho, Utah, and Oregon, and more than 80 percent of Nevada and Alaska.
As a result, the USDA’s Forest Service and the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management, which make nearly all federal land procurements, have been running deficits since 1994.
A 1999 Congressional Budget Office report stated that the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management might better meet “environmental objectives such as habitat protection and access to recreation … by improving management in currently held areas rather than providing minimal management over a larger domain.”
In 2003, the Government Accountability Office reported that the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog was more than $5 billion. Since then, federal land acquisitions have accelerated, placing even greater burdens on an obviously inefficient and overstrained system.
The suspension of federal land purchases has been advocated since 2009 in CAGW’s Prime Cuts database, a compendium of 763 waste-cutting recommendations that would save taxpayers $350 billion in the first year and $2.2 trillion over five years.
Other proposals for federal land management include selling land lacking environmental significance, using state formulas to set grazing fees, and charging royalties for mining.
“We are a nation with a proud history of private property rights,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The notion that our government should be running an ever-expanding territory of highly valuable land while taking losses is beyond absurd. It is past time to end federal land purchases.”
Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government. The Spending Cut of the Week calls attention to a federal program that is wasteful or duplicative.