Private Empires Exploiting Public Policy
The United States has about 640 million acres of public lands—an area more than seven times larger than Germany. If America needs a wall for defense, we need it around our public lands—which are critical to our heritage and homeland security.
“There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty,” said President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. “I feel most emphatically that we should not turn a tree which was old when the first Egyptian conqueror penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates, which it has taken so many thousands of years to build up, and which can be put to better use, into shingles.”
Three years later, Roosevelt signed into law the Antiquities Act of 1906, designed to provide an expeditious means of protecting our national heritage by authorizing the president to proclaim national monuments on public lands. Congress passed this act in response to concerns over the theft and destruction of archaeological sites and the plundering of the West’s forests and other vital resources.
Public lands and public resources in America are under assault by private interests from around the world. It’s not just about beautiful landscapes. It’s about healthy ecosystems, biodiversity and sustaining all of God’s creations, including humans. National parks, National Forests, National Monuments, Bureau of Land Management property and beyond are the latest takeover targets of multinational and domestic corporations alike. Private interests have plundered our public riches for years, but the U.S. government is speeding up the process with collusion, corruption and cover-ups. We the people are being trampled.
Throughout the West, a network of special interest groups and politicians are attempting to dispose of national public lands to state, local, and private control. Dozens of bills to achieve this goal have been introduced in state legislatures, and the debate has even reached the U.S. Congress, which has taken steps to undermine our system of public lands.
Studies have shown that efforts to dispose of national public lands to the states would reduce access for recreation, hunting, and fishing—that’s why sportsmen and outdoor groups have fought strongly against such proposals. Additionally, economic analyses demonstrate that states could only afford the costs of managing public lands under extremely unrealistic and idealized scenarios. If land seizure proponents are successful, Western taxpayers would be saddled with the costly burden of wildfire prevention on public lands. These political attacks on American public lands are an affront to our heritage and to the collaborative spirit needed to manage our lands and resources wisely for this and future generations.
These land grabs (corporate giveaways) put biodiversity at risk. They threaten entire watersheds, which threatens our national security.We are told that this dismantling of America will create jobs and make us more energy independent, while preventing forest fires and other potential crises. They might as well say that killing wild mustangs, endangered species and our last forests will make the nation leaner and meaner so get out of the way. These thieves proclaim to be patriots for progress to disguise the fact that they are fascists in sheep’s clothing. While hiding behind bullets and bibles they are duping innocent Americans into help them take over our country at the highest levels.
Although public support for wilderness, national parks, and other public lands is high, these open spaces face serious threats.
The sentiments that led to the Sagebrush Rebellion and Wise Use Movement are not in the past, Davis tells us. In his first chapter, “Public Land and its Discontents,” Davis details how,since the gains of the Tea Party in 2010, those against public lands have the support of a large number of office-holders in state and federal legislatures.“What was previously seen as the intemperate agitation of fringe activists is now the standard stuff of political platforms, floor debates, and campaign speeches,” he writes.
Since 2010, conservative lawmakers have introduced proposals to:
- Open all national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges to roads and motors;
- Require the government to transfer, without sale, thirty million acres of their holdings;
- Sell all lands in the Rocky Mountains states to the highest bidder;
- Shield timber sales from any kind of public or environmental review; and
- Prevent the creation of any new wildlife refuges.
The Republican Party’s 2012 platform, for example, stated,“Congress should reconsider whether federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership.”
Unfortunately, the missing piece of the equation is public comment and a level playing field. Most land grabs and giveaways are acts of favoritism not patriotism. What could possibly go wrong when corporations control entire watersheds?
Many of these initiatives are based on template legislation created by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 to support policies favorable to its corporate advisory board, including Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries. ALEC state legislators organized a 2014 conference in Salt Lake City that they called the “Legislative Summit on the Transfer of Public Lands”—an outright assault on the Homeland.
With Trump in office, lawmakers have doubled down on efforts to open public lands to extractive industries and corporate development. The Department of the Interior under the direction of Ryan Zinke opened two million acres of land in two national monuments in Utah, while supervising the largest lease sale ever (10.3 million acres) of Alaskan federal lands for oil and gas extraction.
To shrink national monuments last year, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence that these public lands boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released and retracted a day later.
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