The federal government is in debt up to their (our!) eyeballs, and yet it has more land on its hands than it knows what to do with (except, you know, bar private individuals and citizens from putting the lands to productive uses). The federal estate covers almost a third of the surface area of the United States, but it is in no way exempt from the deficient funding, top-down regulatory hindrance, and slow, bureaucratic politicking that goes down in all other areas of the government — and in this case, the results are often environmental degradation. After sequestration especially, the Department of Interior made it all too clear that they were going to be even more hard-pressed to take proper care of the lands within their jurisdiction, so it’s really comforting that the federal government hasn’t actually gotten around to bringing an end to their relentless prowl to acquire still more lands and properties for federal supervision. Wait… what?

Two months after the sequester hit, the Department of Interior continues to warn of coast-to-coast cuts for the country’s national parks — and even the partial shutdown of a critical flood warning system.

But Sen. Tom Coburn says there’s “no shortage of potential savings,” pointing out that the department is nevertheless spending millions on newly created monuments and landmarks. …

“It makes little sense to expand the number of sites at the same time the budget of every other park is being cut and visitors are being turned away from visiting the White House,” Coburn wrote.

Coburn pointedly questioned department efforts to name new sites and expand others — decisions that will contribute to the department’s annual costs. Coburn said the National Park Service has designated 13 new historic landmarks and three new monuments since the sequester hit March 1. …

Coburn also said the NPS is trying to acquire new land elsewhere for existing parks, and urged the department to “cease” until normal access to U.S. parks has been restored.

It is tremendously irresponsible for the federal government to be in the business of adding to the federal estate when we can’t even afford to to properly take care of the parks and properties they already own. The sequester was designed to implement much of the Interior Department budget cutting line-by-line, so that major parks are all now seeing a little taken off the top of their individual budgets, rather than Interior having a sum of money to dish out at their discretion — which would have been vastly preferable. President Obama’s refusal to agree to more flexibility in sequestration’s implementation just goes to show how much this was about making the cuts as visible, painful, and widespread as possible, because no way can they allow Americans to realize that they can ever do without big government running the show!

Except that, in the case of America’s great outdoors, we very often can. There are plenty of parks and properties that could do very well if they were sold-or-leased and privately operated, which would also allow for much more responsive and discerning environmental stewardship. The federal government needs to start getting rid of land, not acquiring more, and stop infringing on local economies and communities with their micro-level political power grabs while contributing to the national deficit.