Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill expanding protection on federal lands and establishing several important programs to deal with the growing oceanic ecological crisis. Predictably, some right wing ideological groups opposed the legislation.
Their arguments against the bill are so silly that they’re funny. They call the bill a “land grab”, although the bill mostly just changes the administration on lands that are already owned by the government. So, was the government grabbing its own land? There were a few land swap deals in the legislation, but those were conducted with the consent of private landowners involved.
Yet, a coalition of 60 extremist right wing groups complains that “We are concerned the omnibus bill would lock millions of additional acres of land into government regulation, preventing American citizens from exercising their right of property ownership.” What is this right of property ownership? How do American citizens have any right of property ownership over lands that are owned by the American public at large? Americans have the legal power to own property – they just can’t go owning property that has a prior claim of ownership over it. If I buy a boat, I am not preventing other citizens from exercising their right of boat ownership. Neither is the government preventing citizens from owning land just because it has a system of publicly-owned lands itself.
That same coalition whines that a portion of public lands designated as wilderness “has already gone into disarray.” But, see, wilderness is supposed to be in disarray. Trees fall down, and animals poop, and nobody cleans it up!
The opponents of the bill didn’t have exclusive ownership on silly posturing, however. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, wrote in gushing praise of the legislation’s passage that “This bill helps guarantee that future generations will be able to hike in pristine forests from California to West Virginia. The bill ensures that Americans will have a chance to fish untouched rivers.”
Anyone who has traveled across the United States can tell you that there are not pristine forests from California to West Virginia. When it comes to fishing in untouched rivers, won’t that require touching the rivers?