Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Cost of Freedom

The chief complaint of the kids playing fort in Oregon at the bird sanctuary is that they want the federal government out of the land management business.  Leave it up to the states and local authorities to run them; that would get them out from under the heel of the jackboots or something.

And while it is true that the federal government controls vast stretches of land in the west, the federal government also pays for it.  If all the land under federal control was turned over to the local authorities, they would go broke in about twenty minutes just for the upkeep.

How do I know this?  Because the state of Idaho looked into it back in 2014 and found out how much it would cost them to take over federal wilderness and BLM land.

A new study by the University of Idaho’s Policy Analysis Group finds it would cost the state up to $111 million a year to manage 16.4 million acres of Forest Service and BLM land in Idaho if the state were to take it over; the study predicted millions in losses for the state in eight of nine scenarios, with the only one showing a profit relying on both a massive increase in logging and high timber prices. The study drew criticism from the Idaho Conservation League in part because it excluded include Idaho’s legally protected roadless areas and wild river corridors; the ICL contends a legislative resolution calls for the state to take over 28 million acres of federal land, not 16.4 million, so the study overlooked a large portion of the costs to the state. It also excluded all transition costs, assuming the state already had taken over management of the lands.

I’m not privy to the budget narrative of the state of Idaho, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have $111 million — a conservative estimate — to spend on something that they basically get for free.  Even if they were to collect state taxes and user fees on all the land and charge for the harvesting of lumber, they’d have to charge the hell out of it to make up the deficit.

This bit of news doesn’t seem to occur to the Oregon campers, but why should it?  They have the news media and local political hacks giving them props, and they’ve been able to schnorr snacks and cigarettes from a bemused public (here’s the latest of their demands shopping list, including boxer briefs in medium, large and extra large and “Chew Copenhagen).  So they don’t seem to grasp the fact that if all the land they want was turned over to local control, they’d be taxed right out of their extra-large boxer briefs.  Then they’d have something to revolt against.

HT to Adam at Balloon Juice.

One bark on “The Cost of Freedom

  1. What makes you think they’d worry about upkeep? I figure it’s even odds that they’d just turn it over to the ranchers, the loggers, and the oil companies.

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