1983 Reagan Administration “Asset Management”

With the Sagebrush Rebellion stumbling into dormancy, the Reagan Administration made one more serious effort to dispose of significant acres of federal lands. Calling their proposal "asset management," the administration suggested selling 2.7 million acres of western BLM lands and 6 million acres of national forest lands to private bidders. Receipts from the sales would go to the U.S. Treasury to chip away at the growing national debt.

The asset management proposal was designed to dispense with small or unconsolidated parcels of federal land that offered various challenges for efficient management, but in many cases these lands proved to be of significant public interest. Especially in the east, the proposed sales represented large or entire portions of existing national forest lands. For example, asset management would have auctioned 30% of Georgia's Oconee National Forest, 25% of the Shawnee in Illinois, 27% of Michigan's Manistee, all of the Tombigbee and Holly Springs National Forests in Mississippi, all of the Kiowa National Grasslands, 90% of North Carolina's Uwharrie, 30% of Ohio's Wayne National Forest, and all four national grasslands in Texas.

The privatization plan met broad disfavor and largely failed. Governors from 9 states came out against it, the legislatures of Montana and Idaho passed resolutions opposing the sales, and even ranchers--the instigators of many previous local-control proposals--called the idea "the biggest threat to the range livestock industry of this century."


"Skeptics in the West Hear Case for U.S. Land Sales" by William E. Schmidt, New York Times, March 21, 1983.

"Reagan's 'Privatization' Plan Founders" by Tom McAllister, The Oregonian, May 1, 1983.

"Public Forest for Sale" North American Hunter News Update, July/August 1984.