Last week, with a flourish, the White House Property Review Board officially blessed Secretary James G. Watt's so-called Good Neighbor Policy, the one where the Interior Department gives local governments a very good deal when they want to buy or lease federal land. The White House did not mention that the long-term cost of the program, part of Watt's plan to quell the "Sagebrush Rebellion," is potentially significant: In the first year, Uncle Sam has lost an estimated $28.8 million in revenues on some 10,000 acres that were either sold or leased at less than what the government listed as the fair market value. That's just the beginning, because local governments have asked for 943,000 acres in 10 western states. (That doesn't necessarily mean Interior will turn loose of all 943,000 acres, however.)
From February, 1981, to March, 1982, two dozen parcels valued at $4.8 million were sold for $1.6 million. Oregon governments led, paying only $1,750 for four parcels valued at $1.047 million. Sixty-two parcels with a sales value of $26.3 million have been leased for $35,049 per year, for up to 30 years. Nevada governments led by leasing 22 parcels with a sales value of $23.2 million, but they will pay only $34,034 a year for the leased land. In some cases, local governments will receive title to the property at the end of a 30-year lease.