In the Departments of Agriculture and Interior same thing happens, as says the latest report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). More than 5,000 establishments run by these two departments may be contaminated or confirmed to be contaminated with some type of hazardous waste.

Moreover, the Department of Interior has to be assessed over 30,000 abandoned mines are possibly contaminated. Most waste of these places are on land located in the western half of the country, divided between the properties of the Bureau of Land Management.

The report is the latest in a long series of case studies showing that the federal government is generally a mediocre manager lands that fall within its jurisdiction. In 2014, Newsweek DOD considered as one of the biggest polluters in the world. It is logical that in other government agencies, especially those mandated to oversee federal lands, similar situations are.

Un mapa de las minas abandonadas por la Oficina de la Administración de Tierras

The Departments of Agriculture and Interior state that currently have about $ 500 million in environmental liabilities that will require future cleanings, almost all of which will be paid with taxpayer money.

However, these projections are being underestimated. In 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers evaluated Used Defense Sites in Antiquity (FUDS) in properties of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and concluded that the cost of cleaning would be much higher. Already have spent millions to mitigate environmental damage in these places, and yet the Army determined that an additional $ 4.7 billion will be needed to complete the improvements for hundreds of missing places.

Moreover, given the history of government projects, that number is probably still very low. Large government projects often end up costing much more than stipulated even end up doubling the budget when they are completed.

When we add all the necessary expense, including costs in excess of the estimate, it would be unreasonable to expect a total that comes close to US $ 10 billion long term. To put this in context, the annual budget of the Bureau of Land Management Department of the Interior has averaged US $ 1.3 billion (adjusted for inflation) since 1970.

The backlog of projects is a real problem that needs to be addressed seriously. Prolonged damage not only pose a threat to taxpayers, but for those who live near the thousands of contaminated sites. The short-term solution for the two departments would inventory and evaluate all sites under its jurisdiction, and provide realistic cost estimates. Over the medium and long term, the departments of Agriculture and Interior should encourage private solutions to some of these problems.

First and foremost, it would cooperate with many of the environmental nonprofit groups to use private funds to clean up contaminated sites. This goes hand in hand with the second answer, which is to privatize much of the properties possessed by these departments, or return control to the states.

Legislators in the western United States have called for greater control of state lands, and could spend state and local funds to remedy, if supported by voters. This could release the cleaning charge to taxpayers who otherwise would not benefit from these lands. Giving greater control of environmental problems for states and local governments could speed up the cleaning process and give rise to innovative land management practices.

The federal government is sitting on millions acres of property, especially in the western half of the country. It has proven to be a poor custodian of the land, overseeing thousands of contaminated sites. We can not wait for future generations to repair the damage that our ancestors have done.

It's time the government evaluated the damage caused, and seek new methods to solve the environmental problems of the nation. Otherwise, the only question will be doing ourselves then is: "Why we did this before?"