One That Got Away

The Federal Government owns a lot of land on which there are trees, cattle, and minerals to be mined. Most people believe, and it's absolutely true, that essentially people have been permitted to use that land, mostly out west, to cut trees, graze cattle, and mine minerals at lower than a market rate. Now, all the people who do that have good reasons why they think the system is good, and I don't know if we've got any of those folks in the audience, but I feel that the mining fees should be raised. President Clinton, Remarks in the "CBS This Morning" Town Meeting, May 27, 1993

Looking back over the environmental programs that the Clinton Administration was able to implement, it may be surprising that they actually tried to do even more. For instance, the administration’s budget for FY 1994 included efforts to reduce below-cost grazing fees and timber sales on public lands, introduce royalties for hard-rock mining on public lands, and increase recreational use fees. In the same proposal, the administration included a tax on virtually all fuels – an idea that was ahead of its time as far as U.S. environmental policy goes. Given Congressional opposition, essentially all of these proposals were eliminated from the final budget. In fact, the grazing fee proposal led to a Senate filibuster over the FY 1994 appropriations bill in the 103rd Congress. It was taken up again in the 104th Congress, but ultimately resulted only in very small increases that still did not cover the government's costs for the land.