A proposal to sell public lands landed in the trash can on Dec. 13, thanks to objections from Western senators — both Democrat and Republican.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.,
and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., had tried to overturn an 11-year
moratorium on selling federal land to mining companies by attaching
a proposal to House budget legislation. Critics said the provision
would have allowed developers to buy millions of acres of public
land for as little as $1,000 per acre (HCN, 11/28/05: Public-lands
agenda turns more radical, urgent).
proposal immediately sparked a grassroots uprising. The leaders of
more than 700 hunting groups, shooting and archery clubs, and
conservation groups came out against the provision. They persuaded
many politicians to condemn it, including Democratic congressmen
and Republicans such as Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, Sen. Craig
Thomas of Wyoming, and Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado.
"The mining provision never belonged in the budget reconciliation
package," said Sen. Thomas.
People like Joel Gossett of
Platteville, Colo., a Republican gun-rights advocate and an avid
hunter, are delighted with the provision’s withdrawal. "I
grew up in Colorado, and I can name a hundred places where I can no
longer camp," because private landowners closed off access, Gossett
says. That makes the public land increasingly important, he says.
"It belongs to the citizens of this country. It’s the
ultimate property-rights issue."
But the issue is far
from settled: A spokesman for Pombo said he and Gibbons will try
again next year to "modernize" the 1872 Mining Law.