Rethinking the Federal Lands

Rethinking the Federal Lands

Rethinking the Federal Lands

Rethinking the Federal Lands

Excerpt

The Reagan administration took office in 1981 with what they perceived to be a mandate for curbing the role of the federal government and stimulating growth in the private sector. While virtually all their efforts to reduce the size and influence of the federal establishment have encountered major resistance, few of the administration's proposals have generated more criticism than those that would alter the ownership and management of the federal lands. Proposals to increase energy and mineral development on federal lands, to accelerate timber harvesting in national forests, and especially to expand the sale of federal lands have generated strong and vocal opposition. The ensuing debate has been heated but seldom enlightening as to the relative merits of specific proposals. The discussion has been dominated by ideological views as to the proper role of government versus private enterprise in U.S. society. Evidence offered in support of various positions tends to be fragmentary and anecdotal.

Early in 1981 Resources for the Future undertook two activities designed to examine how ownership status affects the management of federal lands and the total benefits society derives from them. Marion Clawson, who has been active as either an analyst or administrator of federal lands for nearly fifty years, undertook a reconsideration of the federal lands. His book, The Federal Lands Revisited , which was funded in part by the Richard King Mellon and the Weyerhaeuser Company foundations and published by Resources for the Future in the fall of . . .

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