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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Selling off forest land is a foolish solution

There are about a million things America would rather see cashed in than our national forests.

Many of them are lining the pork barrel that Congress is larding up with special-interest expenditures in the current budget. Others are the lost dollars that the president wants to keep out of the federal coffers by making his administration's deep tax cuts permanent.

That's why a plan announced last week to sell about 300,000 acres of forest and other federal land has appropriately raised eyebrows, even among Republicans who will scrutinize the idea. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who will chair the subcommittee that will review the plan, has already voiced his "preliminary concerns."

"Public lands are an asset that need to be managed and conserved," Craig said, and he's right. The Senate needs to take a hard look at which parcels we could afford to lose without compromising the integrity of contiguous forested environments.

Proceeds from the sales estimated at about $1 billion over the next five years would be used to continue a federal subsidy program that underwrites schools and roads in rural counties. At one time, the logging industry had generated revenue that the feds directed to rural communities, but when that industry began to wane, Congress enacted the subsidy to offset the loss of revenue.

Although these schools and roads certainly need money to sustain them, a huge fire sale of our national land assets the largest in decades is not the solution.

The administration insists that its for-sale inventory of land pares off unneeded property, but the rest of the country would like to check over its figures, thank you. Congress is responsible for meeting the budget for the next few years but also for the foreseeable future. It's shortsighted to barter away our permanent natural endowment to compensate for profligate spending and senseless tax policies.

Voters must hold their elected representatives accountable. Let's make sure they don't buy into this mismanagement of our country's resources, for our own welfare and that of future generations.