NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Auction Off Public Lands, Study Says

December 23, 1999

The federal government is mismanaging public lands -- both environmentally and economically, says a new study from the Cato Institute. To put them under more responsible management, it proposes that the lands be auctioned off to the public over the next 40 years.

  • The report charges that the ecosystem of the national parks has been destroyed under federal management and that 39 million acres of federal forests are "at extreme risk of catastrophic" forest fires.
  • About 630 million acres -- or nearly one-third of U.S. land area -- is owned by the federal government.
  • More than one-half of the land area of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah belongs to the federal government.
  • The report called it "odd, that in a society that rejects socialism, such a clearly socialist resource policy survives with such widespread public support."

Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) says she supports privatization of public lands. Just back from a tour of South Africa and Botswana to examine how these nations manage their resources through privatization, she commented that they are doing a much better job than is the U.S.

"Lands are in better shape and herds of animals are healthier. We can definitely use some of their ideas here in America, especially privatization," she says.

Source: Audrey Hudson, "U.S. Hit in Study on Public Lands," Washington Times, December 23, 1999; Terry L. Anderson, Vernon L. Smith and Emily Simmons, "How and Why to Privatize Federal Lands," Cato Policy Analysis No. 363, December 9, 1999, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20001, (202) 842-0200.

For Cato text


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