By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Ever since James Watt ran the Interior Department in the early days of the first Reagan administration, right-wing Republicans have been trying to privatize the public's forests and pastures, along with the oil, gas, and minerals under them. Public lands compose one-third of all the territory in the continental U.S.
But a recent report by the D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, Who Owns the United States?, shows just what a rip-off privatization has turned out to be. It concludes that "for as little as 84 cents an acre, more than 28,000 companies and individuals have gained control of precious metals and minerals on 5.6 million acres of public land across 12 continental western states."
Additional reporting: Oorlagh George and Alicia Ng
Giving away public lands is nothing new, but take a look at the practices under Bush: You can place a claim for anywhere from 84 cents to $6.75 per acre.