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
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Board of Diablo Trust is seeking applications for full-time Program Manager with duties of overseeing the coordination and administration of the Diablo Trusts ongoing...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • SECLUDED TWO-STORY CUSTOM LOG HOME
    in 16-acre pinion pine forest with year-round stream, mountain views, wildlife. Garage, root cellar, wood shop, one-room cabin, RV shed, pasture, garden. [email protected]
  • BEAUTIFUL, CUSTOM RASTRA BLOCK ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME
    Mature, six-acre Ponderosa forest, open pasture. Spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountain & valley views. Well maintained, paved county road, easy drive to world-class skiing &...
  • OJO CALIENTE RIVERSIDE SECLUSION
    Private, 2bd/2bath green home on 2 acres on the Ojo Caliente River between the confluence of the Chama & Rio Grande Rivers. Close to hiking,...
  • CLASSIC NEW MEXICO MOUNTAIN VIEWS
    of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. 3.19 acre lot to build on to escape the crush of city/town life. Short distance to trails, skiing, fishing,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • ASSOCIATE OF PROGRAMS
    The Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...