Our guest will be Janine Blaeloch, Founder & Director of Western Lands Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that fights public land privatization in order to protect the environment and the public interest. Their mission is to scrutinize public land trades, sales, giveaways, and any project that would cede public land. Their goal is to keep public land public.
Janine will talk about the destructive utility-scale solar plants planned on 19 million acres of public lands open to industrial solar applications, instead of alternatives that would focus solar development on degraded lands and in the already-built environment.
Each year, approximately 200 land deals are proposed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, in addition to those introduced by legislation. The BLM & the Forest Service do exchanges of land with private parties, including timber companies, mining corporations, ranchers, and developers
While the two sides must get lands of equal market value, and the exchange must create a net benefit for the public, the appraisal process can be corrupted and the public interest is often ignored. For years, the Forest Service was trading lushly forested lands to timber companies in exchange for the cut-over, damaged land the companies had already exploited.
And in the U.S. Congress, members wheel, deal, carve up, and give away public lands with no regulations to hinder them. Frequently, the bottom line is the direct, pragmatic opportunity to reward friends or curry political favor through the gift of public land.