The Patented NY Times Sneer

Yesterday, I talked about my fondness for private conservation projects.  Today, the NY Times makes it clear that they are not so fond of private conservation.  In an article about environmentalist-triggered death of logging in the west, the Times observes that many rich folks are taking up the opportunity to buy large tracts of western forests for second homes and ranches.

William P. Foley II pointed to the mountain. Owns it, mostly. A timber
company began logging in view of his front yard a few years back. He
thought they were cutting too much, so he bought the land.

Mr. Foley belongs to a new wave of investors and landowners across the
West who are snapping up open spaces as private playgrounds on the
borders of national parks and national forests.

Cool, a win-win -- conservation without use of tax funds or government coersion.  But instead of being thrilled, the Times adopts their patented sneering tone they use with anything having to do with wealth.

The rise of a new landed gentry in the West is partly another
expression of gilded age economics in America; the super-wealthy elite
wades ashore where it will.

Hmm, I would have thought it an example of how increases in wealth in the US has always driven higher environmental standards and more conservation.  The NY Times tries to portray this as something like turning national parks into sprawling suburbs, lamenting the "increase in density," but this is just a joke and a product of a bunch of New Yorkers who have never really spent time in Montana.  There is zero danger of any kind of urbanization here, and their very story belies this fact when it talks about 640 acre lot sizes. 

The real problem for them seems to be one of access, and they lament that these new owners tend to put up no trespassing signs rather than allowing public access as private loggers used to.  But in so arguing, the Times is trying to have it both ways.  Eliminating recreation access from western lands is a HUGE priority for environmentalists.  In fact, though many in America don't know it, within a few decades it may be impossible to drive into national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.  I know and work with the management of the National Parks, and many of their leaders do not consider their job finished until they get all the visitors out of the parks.  So throwing up no trespassing signs to recreators is exactly what environmentalists want on these lands.  What they don't like, because many are openly socialist, is private ownership of these lands.  They know that increasingly, because they have gotten so good at filing lawsuits and forcing public lands officials to do their bidding, that public ownership means, effectively, ownership by the environmental groups. 


  1. Mesa Econoguy:

    Why is a paper with an editorial board headed by a theater critic considered relevant?

  2. Bob Smith:

    Ownership by the environmental groups, ownership they didn't have to pay for.

  3. DJB:

    sounds like a good editorial, send it in.

  4. DJB:

    sounds like a good editorial, send it in.

  5. Allen:

    I have a hard time buying into this idea of some new landed gentry. The Government owns way, way, way, way too much land in Western states for private ownership to ever be an issue.

  6. morganovich:

    wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if it didn't have people on it?!?

  7. Dan:

    Truly, 99% of easterners cannot conceive how much land the government owns. Back when I did Hummer tours for rich New Yorkers at the foot of Four Peaks, I would always make a point of explaining the land-ownership situation, to their utter amazement. In Arizona, the NPS alone controls an area twice the size of Delaware. BLM controls an area almost the size of West Virginia. The federal and AZ governments own 65,000 square miles. A 640-acre lot amounts to exactly one of those 65,000 miles.

  8. Charles D. Quarles:

    Hi Dan,

    If I am not mistaken the Feds own roughly one third of the land area, that is about 1,000,000 square miles of land. I'm less sure of State land ownership, but I do know that Alabama gets quite a few acres each year from property tax delinquencies (they don't keep them, they sell them at auction each year), folks who skip bail, and folks who die intestate.