Selling a forest near you

With the cost of the Iraq war skyrocketing -- and the government hamstrung by massive tax cuts for the rich -- President Bush has come across a quaint way to bring in some spare change: selling off public forests.

State leaders are now scrambling to see what natural treasures in their area are on the auction block. Here's a report from Florida:

President Bush's 2007 budget proposal suggests putting 973 acres of the Ocala National Forest up for sale as part of an initiative to raise up to $800 million for a federal program that helps fund schools and roads in counties with federal forest land.

Up to 300,000 of the 193 million acres of federal forest land nationally could go up for sale if Congress approves the plan, said Denise Raines, spokeswoman for the Tallahassee office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

"Quite frankly, our piece of the pie is quite small compared to other states in our region," she said. "Georgia has over 4,000 acres."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) question whether this is an effective deficit-cutting strategy:

"The administration has raised a huge deficit. It is a $2.5 to $3 trillion budget and selling off acreage on lakes in the Ocala National Forest is not a solution to the budget crisis."

Charles Lee of Florida Audubon happens to agree:

"To have a fire sale of environmentally sensitive land to try and generate money for the national budget is just nuts."

What's next, putting "Cut the Deficit" lemonade stands on every corner?

(Hat tip to FLA Politics)