GOP risks much with its zeal to sell public estate

 

The Republican Party has formally embraced a policy to sell off America’s chunks of our public lands. That’s likely to prove as welcome as a hornet in a pair of swimming trunks.

The GOP 2012 Party Platform espouses a purely market-driven exploitation of natural resources, as opposed to the traditional American system that embraces both the free market and public ownership. The Republicans turned their backs on Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and are now heaping more sod on his grave with a national platform that reads:

Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control.”  [Emphasis mine.]

File that under rewriting history to fit a political ideology. Wiping out the bison, elk and bald eagles happened without government oversight. Americans used the power of democracy to rescue those species.  Yellowstone National Park is an example of public-spirited, public ownership. A private-sector alternative, say Disneyland, is a poor substitute. In the industrial Midwest a generation ago, rivers and lungs burned because of free-market disposal of “negative externalities.” We’ve cleaned our surface water and air with decades of government action, put in place by Republicans and Democrats both.

Here’s what the GOP plank says about National Forests: “Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership.”

The fact is, Westerners love their national forests and are partial to streams with water in them. In my home state, the Montana Conservation Voters Ed Fund recently asked Montana voters whether they thought public lands were (a) a public benefit, supporting their economy and outdoor way of life or, (b) a liability, locking up natural resources, imposing federal control and costing jobs.

Some 84 percent of Montanans picked (a), expressing favor with public lands. That included three out of four Republicans and four out of five Independents.

The GOP plank concludes: “The enduring truth is that people best protect what they own.”

Yes, and people have a strong sense of ownership in their public land, water and wildlife. Unlike the ideologues who wrote this plank, most Americans understand not only the concept of “mine” and “yours,” but also “ours.”

No candidate swears an oath to a party platform. So let’s ask any candidate running for office this season. Do you want to sell or maintain our public lands? And if your choice is to sell, whose fishing hole, campsite or water source is first on the chopping block? 

Image: Coming soon to a fishing hole near you?

Ben Long is an author, conservationist and outdoorsman in Kalispell, Mont., where he happily lives surrounded by millions of acres of national park and forest. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNITY OUTREACH MANAGER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Outreach Manager to reach and forge new relationships with individuals and groups who represent communities historically...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Wild Rockies Field Institute is seeking a visionary Executive Director to lead the organization in Missoula, Montana. Individuals with a proven track record in...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.