Last year agriculture undersecretary Mark Rey came up with a really bad idea: sell off more than 300,000 acres of public land to help fund rural schools.

The proposal met with resistance from the public and many lawmakers, especially from the West, and was decisively rejected.

Anyone might conclude that the administration would take this rejection as a lesson learned, and find some other way to support school programs formerly dependent on vanishing logging revenue.

Anyone would be wrong.

This year the president’s budget for 2008, submitted to Congress on Feb. 5, contains a proposal to sell off 270,000 acres of national forest lands to raise $800 million. Half of the money would be used to fund rural schools and roadbuilding, the other half for land acquisition programs.

The proposal would thus underfund rural schools (the funds proposed would only cover a quarter of the schools’ budget) and sell off public lands to buy a smaller quantity of public lands.

Small wonder that when House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Norm Dicks (D-WA) first heard the proposal, he pronounced it “dead on arrival.”

Dicks, however, is having second thoughts, and now thinks the proposal deserves some consideration.

Other lawmakers think that even a little consideration is too much. Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY) and Ric Keller (R-FL) have written a letter to the Budget Committee expressing their opposition to selling off national forests lands.

“Selling parcels of our national forests provides at best a temporary solution to funding the Secure Rural Schools program,” the letter says. “Congress should not develop the habit of selling treasured public lands to the highest bidder as a means of temporarily plugging gaps in the budget.”

You can see the letter here: http://forestsforever.org/campaigns/Chandler_Kellerletter.pdf

Chandler and Keller would like to get as many representatives as possible to sign the letter before it is presented to the Budget Committee.


Call your representative and urge him or her to sign the Chandler-Keller letter opposing the sale of national forest lands.

You can place a call to your representative by calling the Congressional Switchboard, 202/224-3121.

(The following California representatives have already signed the letter)

Howard Berman
Mike Honda
Doris Matsui
Pete Stark


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places