Paul Vandevelder's article was right about the end of western welfare, in my opinion (hcn, 10/13/08). Large government deficits and the recent unraveling of our credit-based economy will likely have lasting effects on the west.
While we may not be able to depend any longer on government largesse to fund bridges, dams, and other pet projects, we should also be concerned because the federal government is the largest landholder in the west. As the u.s. treasury prints money with abandon today, it raises the likelihood that the nation will be faced with crushing deficits and concerns about the solvency of the U.S. currency tomorrow. A day may arrive when politicians will again look west to federal land holdings as a means to raise quick cash.
It may seem unimaginable that the government would actually sell off its western forests and rangeland when they are cherished by so many, but one only need imagine how constituents will react when faced with the prospect of losing their medicare benefits or the dismantling of government services because funds are short. If we value our western public lands for the water and habitats they provide and the recreation opportunities we so enjoy, then we should ready our arguments now for their protection.