• Logging
  • Drilling
  • Mining
  • Grazing

YOUR taxes subsidize the destruction of YOUR national forests: 200 million acres of mountains, forests, rivers and streams that belong to the people of America and provide clean air, water and soil for our nation.


Aerial photos show the change from unbroken native forests to a sea of clearcuts in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon. See for our aerial photo and Google Earth projects.

Little more than 100 years ago, our national forests were first opened to logging. Since that tragic decision, 40 million acres of national forest ecosystems have been clearcut, including all but five percent of America’s native forests. The worst part? We’re paying them to do it.


These maps show America’s disappearing native forests, a legacy of destruction that began in 1620 and continues today. (1620, 1850, 1920, Present) A Vanishing Legacy

With less than 5% of our original forest cover remaining, isn’t it time we started saving what’s left and restoring what’s been lost?

The destruction of our nation’s forests, rivers and streams – a living life-support system that gives us clean air, soil and water – costs the taxpayers billions annually. The Forest Service admits that it loses $1.2 billion dollars managing the federal timber program every year. Check out this report on how the Forest Service mismanages our tax dollars.

That’s a figure confirmed by the Government Accounting Office, and it’s a conservative estimate. Factor in all the costs and lost assets, and it’s clear that the American taxpayers are losing trillions of dollars every year. We could pay every timber worker $30,000 a year to do nothing (or, better yet, restore what’s been lost), and the taxpayers would still come out ahead by $80 million!

America’s forests belong to you, corporations are making huge profits by logging your forests, and you’re paying them to do it?

They get away with it because they use a fraudulent accounting system. They simply don’t report all the costs that are involved; they hide logging subsidies and disguise the real costs of public lands logging. They don’t consider the costs that the Forest Service absorbs with your taxes, nor do they consider the VALUE of your forests as an ecosystem that provides clean air, soil, and water.

For example, the Forest Service – the world’s largest road-building enterprise – is responsible for a matrix of logging roads eight times the length of the interstate highway system. Timber corporations agree to pay for some of the costs of building the roads, and the Forest Service “reimburses” them by allowing the timber companies to log the trees. The Forest Service also provides management, reforestation and other services.

Why does congress allow this? Because government bureaucrats make money by allowing your public lands to be logged. Because big timber corporations out fund the congressional gravy train. Because timber industry lobbyists and their congressional lackeys will continue to push for logging in our national forests, despite the environmental and economic price.
Help us stop this destruction
. Help us end the pattern of greed that steals your money and your natural heritage. Help us keep our publicly owned lands Forever Wild.

Click here to watch our Google Earth video on public lands logging.

Drilling for oil, natural gas, and other resources is destroying our
publicly owned lands, and wasting taxpayer money in the process.


The Mega Borg spill from 1990 spilled 5.1 million gallons of crude oil
into the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental Impact

  • It is estimated that the oil industry loses approximately 280 million barrels per year through leaks, spills and other inefficiencies.
  • Wellpads, pumpjacks, compressor stations, pipelines, and roads have transformed the face of many previously remote and wild areas of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming into scarred and polluted industrial wastelands.
  • The Bureau of Land Management anticipates that 50,000 wells could be drilled in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. One current 5,000-well proposal would require 2,500 miles of roads with another 2,500 miles of pipelines. Additional roads will be required to access pipelines and compressor stations. These 5,000 wells threaten incredible devastation of 3,600 square miles of rural land, relatively much of which is federal public land. This is endemic of the drilling industry.
  • Oil royalties paid below market rates place cleaner fuel sources at a market disadvantage, discouraging the development of new alternatives to fossil fuel energy. The burning of fossil fuels contributes to air pollution, smog, and global warming.
  • Subsidizing the oil industry only encourages the development and misuse of the dirty fuels that promote these problems.

Financial Impact

  • The financial return to the federal treasury for extraction of these public oil and gas reserves is scandalously low. In spite of reclamation requirements, oil and gas wells are abandoned and left for the taxpayers to clean up.
  • According to the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), oil companies underpay royalties on the natural resources they extract from public lands by an estimated $66 million per year. Although oil companies are supposed to pay a royalty based on percentages of gross production, the industry has used a “posted price” which can differ by as much as $2 per barrel from the actual daily market price.
  • Oil companies continue to underpay royalties every year. MMS estimates that oil companies underpay royalties by at least $66 million per year, totaling a $856 million loss since 1991.

We hope that you too will discover that our natural heritage is best kept Forever Wild, and will be motivated to help us toward our goal.

Our Argument Against Mining on Public Lands: Gold Rush! Mining’s Legacy

by Chris Bryant

In 1848, John Marshall found a gold nugget in the tailrace of John Sutter’s mill in Coloma, California. Thinking he would be an incredibly rich man, Sutter tried to keep the discovery a secret, hoping to grab the surrounding land. Unfortunately for Sutter, word got out. The gold rush was on. Within a decade, the easily found placer gold was gone, Sutter was left with nothing and gold fever drove prospectors on to the next boomtown.

During the 19th century, the U.S. Government lured settlers out west with federal land giveaways and get-rich-quick promises. Mining towns spread like wildfire, decaying as suddenly as they sprouted and leaving a mess in their wake. Today, America’s gold rush is still booming. The land giveaways – and the messes left behind – continue nationwide.

Now, instead of going to a lone prospector with a mule, our land and minerals are being handed over to multinational corporations. Our public lands have been turned into toxic waste sites, and the American taxpayer is left footing the bill. This is the real legacy of mining in America: trails of subsidized environmental disasters from coast to coast, threatening the water we drink and the air we breathe.

According to the Mineral Policy Center (MPC), over half a million abandoned mines scar the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists 66 of these reckless abandonments as Superfund sites. The price tag? Billions of dollars in clean-up costs, destroyed wildlife habitat, polluted water and air and the virtual giveaway of our mineral resources and land.

Here’s how today’s corporate prospector does it: Use the taxpayers’ land for almost nothing, abandon the toxic remains, and let the taxpayers pay for the clean up. A 1996 report from the General Accounting Office says that mines have left 50 billion tons of waste, equivalent to 2,400 football fields each filled a mile high. These wastes contaminate the air and leak pollutants into drinking water.

Acid mine drainage, according to the United States Geological Survey, has degraded more than 8,000 miles of streams and has made some aquatic habitats “virtually lifeless.” The EPA calls it the number one water-quality problem in Appalachia. When mining operations dig ore and tailings out of the earth, they react with air and water, becoming acidic. The resulting acid runoff leaches out heavy metals and contaminants, which end up in our drinking water. Appalachia’s coal mining history makes it a well-known problem area, but hard rock mining out west is also causing acid mine drainage. Your tax dollars are paying for the toxic legacy of Iron Mountain in California, Bunker Hill in Idaho and the largest hazardous waste mess in the country: a 90-square-mile quartet of mining-related sites in Montana.

From the Appalachians to the Rockies and Sierras, we pay for old mining problems. And today’s mining operations are creating a new legacy for our grandchildren. Cyanide heap-leaching, a newer technique, is creating some of the nastiest Superfund sites. To extract gold from low-grade ore, mining companies use cyanide sprinklers to spray piles of crushed rock, leaching out every last fleck of gold. The rock is piled on plastic liners, but they don’t always work, and the cyanide flows directly into the earth. After only seven years of operation, the Summitville Mine in Colorado (now a Superfund site) was closed down due to leaking toxins. According to MPC, this site now costs the American taxpayers $30,000 a day to clean up!

Often, mining corporations dodge their cleanup responsibilities by simply declaring bankruptcy and leaving the cleanup costs to the government. In the end, the government has given away lands and resources belonging to American taxpayers, and forced them to pay the cleanup bill. The story of the gold rush is not just one of colorful prospectors and boomtown tales from the past. The real gold rush is despoiled federal lands, stolen wealth and taxpayers burdened with toxic waste dumps on what used to be pristine wildlands.

Chris Bryant was a Council intern and recently earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. A former geologist, Chris has professional experience in the mining industry. According to Bryant, it is imperative that we address the threats of mining operations across the globe, not just in the U.S.

We hope that you too will discover that our natural heritage is best kept Forever Wild, and will be motivated to help us toward our goal.

Corporate Desperadoes
Romantic notions of the West mask the damage of public lands grazing

by Robin Smith

America’s love affair with the cowboy distorts a far less romantic reality: Grazing has degraded or destroyed 700 million acres of western grasslands and has been the primary cause of decline in the population of thousands of species of plants and animals. They destroy the land that we own, and we pay them (with tax dollars) to do it.


In his comprehensive book on public lands grazing, Waste of the West, Lynn Jacobs thoroughly recounts the destruction of public lands grazing. Cattle scour fragile rangeland for forage, razing public lands across the West. Public lands ranching transforms thriving grasslands into wastelands filled with poisonous, thorny vegetation that doesn’t belong there or – worse yet – bare ground. Public lands ranching destroys our lands, denuding vegetation, creating deep erosion gullies and ruining critical drainage basins.

When cattle strip the land bare and compact the soil, the ground can no longer absorb rainfall, which increases flooding, erosion and topsoil loss. Sediments, pollution and pathogens end up in our drinking water. According to Jacobs, ranching is the main cause of water pollution on publicly owned lands in the west. In addition, development poses a risk to our native wildlife. Gila trout, meadow jumping mouse, desert tortoise and masked bobwhite are just a few of the species that are threatened with extinction as a result of grazing.

The Cow That Ate the West

In 1884, 35 to 40 million cows, far more than the land could support, were grazing the West, each eating about 800 pounds of vegetation monthly. By 1890, starvation had reduced their population to 27 million. Because these lands have been grazed continuously since, they have not recovered from the destruction.

In the East, where rainfall may exceed 35 inches a year, it takes very little land to support a cow because of the abundant grass that grows there. But the arid West simply wasn’t made for cows. In the eastern U.S., it takes three acres to support a cow for one year. On western publicly owned land, it takes 185 acres to support the same cow.

Each year, as cows eat grass faster than it can be regrown, our grasslands deteriorate. After a century of overgrazing, our publicly owned grasslands have been converted to wastelands.

Over the past century, cows have eaten half of the grass that exists for domestic animals and wildlife. It’s gone, and the land is no longer capable of growing it back. Of the sparse grass that remains, cows eat 86 percent and sheep eat 4 percent, leaving just 10 percent for wildlife.

Even Yellowstone has fallen prey to the cows. Within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which contains the greatest assemblage of wildlife remaining in the contiguous 48 states, 500,000 cows graze on publicly owned land. This is in comparison to just 170,000 deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, moose and buffalo that graze on publicly owned lands.

Welfare Ranching

Grazing fees are currently $1.35 per cow per month (a fourth of what it costs to feed a pet rat!) compared to approximately $10 on private land. In addition to virtually free land, public lands ranchers enjoy myriad indirect subsidies. According to the Cato Institute, a conservative Washington, DC think tank, grazing on publicly owned land has cost taxpayers billions since 1945, at the rate of $200 million per year.

According to Zepezauer and Naiman (Take the Rich Off Welfare, Odonian Press, 1996), ranchers can account for profits as capital gains for a lower tax rate. That’s a break other agricultural businesses don’t get. And ranchers can write off ordinary expenses, such as the costs of buying and breeding livestock, immediately.

Ranchers are also subsidized through a government predator control program called Wildlife Services. This agency operates as a full time army devoted to killing wildlife. When Wildlife Services gets a call from a public lands rancher complaining about predators, one of its soldiers goes out to the publicly owned land and poisons, traps or shoots, sometimes from an airplane or helicopter, just about every predator within miles.

Ranching on publicly owned lands is a massive government give-away program for a small group of pampered businessmen who provide only a small fraction of the nation’s beef. With so little of our publicly owned lands left, it’s time we kicked these 20th Century land bandits off our property.

We hope that you too will discover that our natural heritage is best kept Forever Wild, and will be motivated to help us toward our goal.