On behalf of our activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to support S. 434, a bill to provide a report on federal land holdings and maintenance. Introduced by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), this bill would require the Department of the Interior to submit a report detailing all federal land holdings and the costs of maintaining them.
The U.S. federal government owns 640 million of the roughly 2.27 billion acres of land across the country. That’s well over 25 percent. The fact that the federal government controls so much land is already inexcusable. Perhaps more concerning, however, is how little transparency there is in the way federal agencies maintain this land.
Until 1989, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had a line item in the president’s budget that provided for such information. In 1989, OMB removed it and it has not been restored since. Thus, neither Congress nor the public has detailed information about how much is spent maintaining federal land. Congress has not been briefed or informed by the executive branch on such matters in three decades. Both Congress and the American people have a right to know.
For fiscal year 2017, there was a deferred maintenance backlog of around $19 billion. Yet, Congress continues to appropriate money for new land purchases. This is irresponsible, given how little they know about what is spent and how it is being used. Before we allow the federal government to further encroach on land better left to the American people, it is not too much to ask that we at least have all the information at our disposal as to what is going on on these lands and how they are being maintained.
Proponents of federal land grabs often claim that the government is the best steward for the purposes of conservation. If that is, in fact, the case, they should at least be able to prove through transparent reporting to Congress and to the American people. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to support the S. 434, a bill to provide a report on federal land holdings and maintenance.
Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks