The Outside Prognosticator: For You, I Get It Wholesale

Outside magazine, January 1996

The Outside Prognosticator: For You, I Get It Wholesale

Want to buy a chunck of Jackson Hole, Taos, or 38 other Forest Service-owned mountain tracts that are now leased to ski-resort operations?

If Republicans in Congress have their way, you may get the chance. This year, western conservatives are determined to slap TAKE ME signs on much of the federal government's 641 million acres of national forests, nationals parks, wilderness, and range. And while the Century 21 ambitions of people like Utah Representative James Hansen probably won't proceed unchecked--President Clinton vows to veto overly radical firesale measures--Hansen is quite serious about selling or handing off the state property owned by the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies.

In some instances he may have a point--does the National Park Service really need Steamtown, the railroad buff's hokey theme park in Scranton, Pennsylvania?--but environmentalists charge that Hansen and other conservatives are after more than reform and are hell-bent on selling off truly valuable public holdings. "They're using a shotgun approach," says Karl Gawell, director of national park programs for the Wilderness Society. "Sooner or later they'll hit something."

Meanwhile, on the hypocritical cross-purposes front: At press time. Virginia Republican Frank Wolf had won House approval of a pork-barrel bill that would create--yes!--yet another new Civil War battlefield park in his own Shenandoah Valley district. The Park Service didn't ask for it, but Wolf slid the bill through easily with quiet coos from the House leadership.

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