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Know the West

Wilderness Dedux


During the eight years of the Bush Administration a number of bills which included designating wilderness in the West were passed by Congress, signed by President Bush and became law. Most mainstream national and regional environmental organizations praised them as great victories.  A few long-time activists, including this blogger, raised an alarm.

Grassroots activists’ concerns with Bush-era public lands bills are of two types: 

  • Provisions within the legislation which activists say undermine the integrity of wilderness and the intent of the Wilderness Act. For example, some of these bills allow helicopter and airplane uses within wilderness for various purposes or select users. 
  • Provisions included which have nothing to do with wilderness but which critics claim are anti-environmental. One example of this sort of legislation is a bill pushed through by Nevada Senator Harry Reid which designated a small amount of wilderness in his state but also authorized the pipeline by which Las Vegas intends to exploit Eastern Nevada groundwater.

Now the Seattle-based Western Lands Project has come out with a new book – Carving Up the Commons: Congress and our Public Lands – which not only “examines the emergence of ‘quid pro quo’ land bills of 2000-2008” but also includes sections on the origins of our public lands, the process and pitfalls (unintended consequences) of congressional land deals and deals in which powerful western members of congress have served the interests of well-connected private parties. The book examines five land deals in depth in order to “illustrate the elaborate machinations and distortions….that can characterize these projects.”   

Best of all, the book is cheap ($10 for printing and shipping a hard copy) and it is available as a free download.  To order, download or for more information visit the Western Lands Project web site.