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Pombo Proposal Amounts to Largest Land Sell-Off in Modern American History (08 Nov 2005)

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

(WASHINGTON, Nov. 8) - A little-known provision in the current House budget reconciliation could precipitate one of the largest land giveaways in American history. The provision, spearheaded by Rep. Richard Pombo of California, would put up for sale millions of acres of public land where companies have staked mining claims, including land inside or adjacent to national parks, wilderness areas and other natural treasures. Real estate speculators, oil and gas companies, foreign mining corporations or anyone who is willing to pay $1,000 per acre could buy the land and develop it in any way they wanted.

The Pombo proposal would:

  • Put 5.7 million acres of public lands up for sale immediately where companies have already staked mining claims, including more than 3 million acres of claims inside or within five miles of national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national forests and prized public assets.
  • Open up as many as 350 million acres of public lands for sale to the highest bidder.
  • Eliminate the current requirement that corporations or individuals staking mining claims demonstrate valuable mineral deposits under the land.

"Pombo's bill is stunning in its disrespect for the basic American values embodied in a century-old system of public land protections," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Pombo would literally sell off hundreds of millions of acres of prized public land across the West, all for the benefit of foreign mining corporations, real estate speculators, and oil and gas conglomerates."

EWG has posted on its Web site, http://www.ewg.org, a national summary of the land grab proposal followed by maps and statistics for the 12 affected states. The budget reconciliation bill containing Pombo's proposal is up for a vote on the House floor this Thursday.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.