The Senator hits the nail on the head:
"In my view, selling public lands to pay down the deficit would be a short-sighted, ill-advised and irresponsible shift in federal land management policy," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the top Democrat on the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Our public lands are a legacy for future generations. We shouldn't liquidate that legacy."
There's something else that stood out to me in this piece: the fact that the National Forest Service "purchases at least 100,000 acres a year from conservation funds and that will offset the agency's land sales in two years." Ah, the fishy smell of a red herring!
If they are buying the land anyway, then we still end up 175,000 acres short at the end of two years. But here's the real problem: the sale proceeds are not going to the National Forest Service or to the National Parks. So even if they are able to buy in two years the exact amount of land sold this year, they've spent $X (how much do you think it costs to buy 175,000 acres?) to get right back to where they are today! Suppose Bush takes some dough out of your kid's college account to fund a short-shrifted federal program. "Don't worry," He'll say, "at the rate you're earning, you can replace what I took in just two years! It's an offset!" My ass it's an offset.
That's the loss, folks. You can tally it in acres of America's legacy lost, or you can tally it in the dollars it will cost to replace those acres, but either way it's a screwing.