As the Department of the Interior auctions off 'vast swaths' of American wilderness to oil and gas companies, fiscal conservatives and conservationists alike wonder if it’s the right thing at the right time.
A recent article from the Houston Chronicle, a newspaper that is, of course, based in an oil-and-gas town, bears the headline: "Even some Republicans worry that Trump is selling American wilderness to oil and gas firms."
"Last year," James Osborne writes, "the Department of Interior put almost 12 million acres of federal land on the block, more than double what was auctioned at the peak of the George W. Bush administration."
This has included pieces of land that border Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park and Hovenweep National Monument, not to mention that "[j]ust outside Grand Canyon National Park, a ban on uranium mining enacted to keep radioactive pollution from flowing into the Colorado River is under review by Interior for possible reversal."
In addition to those that are concerned about the sale of treasured land (or the sale of treasured ocean in most parts of the country), there are those concerned that low natural gas prices mean this is not the right time to sell. The DOI may have auctioned 12 million acres, but only 800,000 have found interested buyers, most of whom are getting "considerable bargains."
Or, as Osborne writes, "[w]ith bidding interest so low, budget hawks say, auctioning so many leases is neither good business nor good policy, ultimately benefiting private interests while delivering tiny returns to U.S. taxpayers who own the land."
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