Koch Bros. will smile at his attempt to auction off our lands-

Ted Cruz has jumped on the billionaire’s land grab wagon by offering a bill requiring the federal government to give away or sell off what he terms “excess lands,” whether they be our national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges or BLM lands.

Some Democrat-leaning groups say he has been “bribed” by the Koch Brothers, but there is no evidence that money has changed hands or that there is a quid pro quo. More likely, the ultra-conservative senator from Texas, a place with essentially no public lands, sees his bill as a way to indirectly get their support. More immediately, he could strategize it will get him support in the presidential primary elections in Nevada, Idaho, and other states in the West. Presidential primaries, of course, do not attract a representative public, but rather the partisan public. Among Republicans in the West, that is far to the right.

The effort to take away the public domain is not popular in the West, only with Western political elites in livestock, mining, oil and gas, logging, and rural Republican county commissioners and state legislators. The Western Values Project shows majority support for keeping the public lands as public and federal in every Western state, except for Utah.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

57 Responses to Cruz tries to win the West by taking our public lands

  1. Ralph Maughan says:

    “Land grab  The transfer of public lands to state control appears to have little support in Montana. So who’s pushing for it, and how has such an unpopular idea gained traction?”
    The Missoula Independent.


  2. Leslie says:

    Thanks Ralph for that in-depth article reference. Interesting connections between militia groups and right-wing groups pushing for this idea. Bundy and his militia followers are case-in-point. As far as terrorists threats, these militia groups are considered second on the list after ISIS, and they have grown exponentially since Obama was elected in ’08. Whoever says all this anti-Obama rhetoric isn’t racist driven hasn’t been awake.

    • skyrim says:

      No doubt Leslie. No doubt.

    • Henry Blake says:

      @ Leslie,
      While I have my doubts about Obama they are not of racist origin. If I am considered a terrorist by my government perhaps it is not I but my government who should be held suspect. Once again, I say there is a mix of incompetent government at state and federal level who would like to control this land. A great deal of transparency and truthful, not political, discussion on all sides would help.

      • Leslie says:

        Henry, we all have our ‘doubts’ or disappointments with Obama, liberal or conservative. But what I’ve seen in my little town in WY has opened my eyes to the extent that racism is still alive and well, and maybe more as a threat to the dominant white male culture than just the color of Obama’s skin.

        Obama should have sent in federal troops when the Bundy thing occurred. I just saw that a bunch of college students were arrested for peacefully protesting higher fees. Go figure how they can be arrested but militia pointing AK-47s at federal agents aren’t

        • Leslie says:

          Henry, if you don’t think there’s racism involved, read this little piece. Since the ’08 election of Obama, militia groups skyrocketed over 800%, the highest jump ever. Not saying you’re a racist, but saying that this takeover movement has that element and fear in it.


          • Henry Blake says:


            So you are saying that the militia movement is racist? I am sure there is a mix here as everywhere, including our police forces, but that is not what I see the movement as. The article you referenced mentioned that the militia movements “are on a mission to protect and defend the rights of the Constitution”. That is my version of the militia’s driving force and I think it is crucial to the rule of law in this country. As you see in too many news reports these days, the government is using force where it should not be. The militia, or I will just say citizens, can be the balancing force to their overuse of force. If there arises a racist militia element then the balance of the non-racist citizen militia will help counter it. I know a number of constitutionally minded conservatives who are not racist. It is like the “good” guy with a gun versus the “bad” guy with a gun. It is the guy, not the gun. I did not mean to inject so much non-wildlifenews to wildlifenews.com. My apologies.

            • WM says:


              Sorry for the intrusion on the conversation, but there is a compelling argument that the “militia movement” is predominantly an outlet for disenfranchised, and unemployed middle age or retired white guys (often former military and some with past or current substance abuse problems), and an interest in some of the weapons they used in their former productive life. Some racism is inherent in this demographic. Whether it is intended as racist, or just one isolated characteristic of some members of the group, it is still there and would seem pretty evident in the way it comes to the surface with some of these guys. LIfe is simpler when you can blame stuff on a particular group “not like you.”

              Doesn’t mean some of it is not justified, but it does come out wrong at times, especially when idiots like Bundy open their mouths and say stupid things.

              • Yvette says:

                “Doesn’t mean some of it is not justified, but it does come out wrong at times, especially when idiots like Bundy open their mouths and say stupid things.”

                +1. Wow, we agree on something.

            • Leslie says:

              Henry, basically I feel these people are dangerous, very dangerous, racist or not. Anyone taking the law into their own lands through violent actions and threats is certainly not the Constitution I was taught. If you take a Bundy for instance, he is just bullying himself onto my, and your, public lands, taking them for himself. What right has he to do that outside going through the courts or a peaceful protest?

              Although it does not appear to be wildlife news, it fits. These people have the exact same mentality as poachers. Recently someone left poison bait on public lands outside my town and killed wildlife and dogs. I would put that person in the exact same mentality as these ‘militia’–in other words “I can do whatever I want and decide which laws I want to obey or not.”

        • Louise Kane says:

          +1 Leslie

  3. Ralph Maughan says:


    Yes, these people are a threat to more than our national forests.

    There are also non-violent newcomers to NW Montana and northern Idaho. They moved here to Idaho not so much because they liked the white, snowcapped mountains as they liked all the white skin.

    The article suggests they are behind this land grab too, a group that does not own cattle or oil rigs and still does not care for the public lands.

    • WM says:

      I don’t know how big the “take back our lands” movement really is, and to what extent it is gaining momentum. But while folks here are focusing on the Koch Brothers, white skin, and some wacked out state legislatures and county commission boards, there are other factors – very powerful ones – that stand to gain by the federal government peeling off some land and maybe the mineral resources to go with it.

      Wall Street would tend to win big, and that means a wide assortment of manufacturing and service industries. Insurance companies have large holdings in TIMO’s and REIT’s. So do investment arms of many and I say MANY colleges and universities. Mining, timber, resort development, agriculture and the list goes on, would tend to benefit. Think also of these peeled off lands not having to go through costly and lengthy environmental reviews (because change in use would not be “federal action,” and some state environmental reviews are more lenient and streamlined. I also wonder what would happen to the developing body of federal reserved water rights that might go away with some of these lands going to private hands.

      Thinking more locally, I bet Simplot, Potlatch Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, James River, Plum Creek, Boise Cascade, Georgia-Pacific and Roseburg Companies, and some railroads that still have timber holdings, would love it if they could snatch up timber lands adjacent to their holdings. Barrick, Anaconda Copper, Kennicot, ASARCO and the like in the mining industries.

      And, I bet a lot of city/county/state pension funds and college/university investment trusts have substantial holdings in each of the companies mentioned above.

      If this thing ever catches some political wind by the R’s and some state rights types with the reasonable belief they can pull this off, the $$$$ signs will lure even more to the fold.

      That being said, I don’t know if it will gain enough traction to happen. I prefer to believe these folks are delusionary nuts, including Cruz. But then, Cruz is a smart guy from Texas, a state that to this day believes it is still the designated caretaker of values of the old Wild West.

      • WM says:


        I should also say, somewhere recently I read a state by state review of per capita median income for retirees – WY came in near the top of the top quartile – with income originating from pensions and corporate investment dividends, no doubt heavily weighted from the, white skin favoring, newcomers to the Jackson – Teton area, and many whose fortunes were made on Wall St, with direct or indirect institutional investments there. Will they join the “take back our lands” movement, or oppose it?

        • AB says:

          The companies will oppose it, as will all of the Western states. Everyone loves the public lands. I don’t know anyone who wants it sold, not even Republican who live there.

        • Louise Kane says:

          aren’t some of these wealthy elites there in part because of the benefits of a beautiful landscape that would not be so beautiful if those lands were developed or harvested for whatever resources they might hold. Assuming if states took control they would be selling to highest bidder.

          • Ed Loosli says:

            Yes, the rich elites moving into the scenic Rocky Mt. West are not about to allow the federal public lands to go to the states. The wildlife and protected open federal lands are one of the big reasons they bought there in the first place.

            • WM says:

              The West is a very large place. Not all of it is scenic vistas of mountains, valleys and streams. It produces the raw materials for the making of steel, lumber, agricultural chemicals, and the fuel that powers your cars, as well as precious (gold and silver) and industrial metals (copper, titanium,). Long term FS leases are also at the heart of vast ski areas (with their envinmental restrictions), with adjacent condos, golf courses and sports complexes on leased or private lands(and the occasional high end mall). So, it is still possible to recreate and/or even live in some place like Jackson, Aspen, Sun Valley, or even Seattle, Portland. Salt Lake or Denver (maybe even LA or San Francisco) and secretly vote your pocketbook, maybe without even knowing it, when the heavy breathers that run the big insurance companies, pension funds and other institutions take positions in bad boy industrial stocks or mutual funds, and then channel those interests thru lobbyists or influence peddlers to pander to Congressional types.

              And here you thought your auto/health care insurance company only made money from the premiums they charge. Silly you.

  4. skyrim says:

    History will remember this mans idiocy in the same light as another clown by the name of McCarthy. Let us see what Koch’s money can buy in this election cycle.

    • timz says:

      yes look at what their money has gotten us so far.
      “During the past five congressional campaigns (2006-14) Koch money went to President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Pryor, Chuck Schumer and other members of Congress.”

      • skyrim says:

        Horseshit timz.
        I guess you conveniently overlooked this tidy matter:
        Additionally the sentence that mentioned “employees” of Koch Industries made the (questionable: my word) donations.

        • timz says:

          Another ill-informed poster. Thought you were better than that. It’s public record look it up before you run your pie-hole. The Koch brothers gave money to over 30 democrats between 2006-2014, including those I mentioned.

          • timz says:

            Proving thru point you like others here cannot grasp. There is not a dime’s difference between Democrats and Republicans.

            • Louise Kane says:

              whats most concerning is to look at the effect McCutcheon had.
              2012 some 3.3 million donated by Koch industries

              2104 10.7 million!!!
              2% to Dems 2 GA , Utah noted as making sense not sure about the CT congressman.

              • timz says:

                What’s most concerning, to me anyway, is politicians on both sides have no problem taking money no matter where it comes from. The system is horribly broken by power, money and greed.

                • timz says:

                  And what’s even more concerning to me is people that can’t grasp that. That’s why the country is a turd circling the toilet bowl.

                • timz says:

                  And those vilifying the Koch brothers probably think Soros is a hero. They are one in the same, buying politicians.

            • Louise Kane says:

              a good solution for finance reform would involve a cap on a total amount of donations (ceiling across the board) for all politicians. Once that ceiling is hit they are done fundraising.

              Their campaign managers would have to decide how to spend the money wisely.

              I think it might help create a situation where issues counted instead of slander, especially of the cap was low enough.

              • timz says:

                I think the solution is strict term limits, 2 at most. Don’t give these people enough time to amass so much power and influence.

                • Ed Loosli says:

                  timz: Personally I do not like “term limits”. If you have a bad Senator or Congressman then let democracy prevail by voting them out. My Congressman is wonderful and has been for 30 years (George Miller (D) California) and the U.S. is a better place because he has been re-elected over and over again.

                • WM says:


                  Strikes me yours is flawed logic. If YOUR Congressional representatives keep bringing home the bacon, or should I say pork, it just gives those who elect him/her the reason to vote for them again. The Senate would work better without personalities like Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and McCain, and bunch of other polarizing types who think EXCLUSIVELY along party lines, rather than actually trying to solve problems, or reaching middle ground on complex topics. Congress used to work better when stewards of government thought a bit more responsively about their temporary roles and duties toward the American people. Some of them even socialized with each other, while holding politically opposite views.

                  Now its all about maintaining power, plotting the next Party move, and feathering one’s own nest and feeding ones ego in the process, AND bringing home the pork year after friggin’ year.

                  Cripes, your guy lives with Schumer and Durbin in a house he owns and rents to them. He’s bringing home the liberal pork for what 30 years? No wonder you don’t want change.

                • timz says:

                  There-in lies the problem. Congress consistently gets abysmal approval ratings with minimal turnover. It’s that other guy that’s rotten, not my guy. Losing a few good ones every few years would be a price worth paying to get rid of all the bad ones.

            • JB says:

              “There is not a dime’s difference between Democrats and Republicans.”

              Their voting records say otherwise. http://scorecard.lcv.org/

              I agree with you about money and term limits, though.

              • Ed Loosli says:

                Yes, Congressman George Miller (D-CA) has been bringing the liberal “pork” to the U.S. for 30 years, including protecting and strengthening Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, worker safety standards, and the Endangered Species Act. WM: I know you want these liberal programs weakened, but fortunately for the rest of us, you are in the minority. Miller is stepping down this month, and there are two Democrats battling it out to replace him.

          • skyrim says:

            My assumption, which was obviously wrong, was that contributions were equal or close to that factor between the parties and individual candidates on both sides. A token amount at best and only for the benefit of lending a moderate appearance for PBS viewers.
            I voted for Reagan twice. That doesn’t make me a Republican.
            l voted for Obama only once. Guess I’m not much of a Democrat either……

            • timz says:

              Thousands of $$’s is not a token amount, not to me anyway. An honest man would not take money from someone who does not share the same ideals. But we are talking politicians, not honest men.

  5. Louise kane says:

    Unpopular in every state except for Utah where they have money to burn such as the unaccounted for slush fund paid to big game forever and peay to lobby against wolves in congress. Do they should have plenty to upkeep the public lands they want to steal

  6. Cody Coyote says:

    The concerted conspiratorial movement to disappropriate Federal lands across the West is certainly my # 1 issue. Ted Cruz is just the tiny diamond point at the tip of the spear. The ” take back our lands” movement is huge , and it’s getting traction in the statehouses in spite of setting aside factuality and public land history and replacing them with mendaciousness and greed.

    Case in point: In my own Park County in Wyoming the five seated County Commissioners have all but gone to war with the Feds over public lands in the last 4 years, and came close to appropriating $ 5,000 to Ken Ivory’s American Lands Council till they were called out on it publically ( by me, among others). They continually rail and wail about wanting to subvert all the federal lands back to the states. At first they wanted the deed to those lands, but have backpeddled to saying they just want the state to take over management…. a wedge towards eventually getting those lands deeded to them. They are modifying the rhetoric for now, but the ultimate goal remains the States acquiring the federal lands, and eventually disposing them to the highest bidder.

    The American Lands Council is the out-of-wedlock progeny of ALEC- the American Legislative Exchange Council – that is a conservative law and policy mill driven by and paid for by the Kochs, among others. ALEC membership is appalling in the Wyomng Legislature—38 avowed members out of 90 seated solons, and many more will vote for ALEC bills summarily.

    Between Ivory’s disruptive and corrupt ALC and its parentage of ALEC, we who support open public lands preferrably managed by national priorities rather than subverted by the States, definitely have out work cut out for us. I’m glad I outed Ken Ivory and provided a list of his backers and activities last year, which got picked up by regional news channels. That’s good . American Lands Council is now operating out in the open and its support is avalanching. That’s bad.

    If you support keeping public lands public, open , for all Americans, without subversion by high minded State lawmaers and their corporate handlers, then the article cited here by Ralph and others that is in the current Missoula Independent is required reading. Clip and Save.


    • skyrim says:

      Your individual work on this issue Cody (or do you prefer Mr. Coyote ^..^) is very much appreciated. As is your contributions to this forum.

  7. Ralph Maughan says:

    Senator Mike Crapo is saying his vote for the Murkowski amendment is no important thing, and then he, once again, refers to his vague “consensus solution,” but his votes are far more meaningful than words.

    He also gives a historically inaccurate justification for the states deserving federal lands — it is a variety of the “equal standing doctrine,”which the Supreme Court has rejected.

    See “Crapo defends vote as just a budget measure.” Idaho State Journal http://tinyurl.com/lndq2ts

  8. Yvette says:

    I didn’t think the movement of state’s rights to take federal land would gain as much momentum as it has, but now I’m concerned. I still have doubts that a large portion of our public lands will be given to states. But, in my opinion, the politicians will do what their lobbyists tell them to do rather than what the majority of the citizens want.

    Not long ago I posted on this blog about the Oak Flats land swap that Senator John McCain worked long and hard to get into the hands of a foreign mining company. He turned over a rare riparian forest in the desert ecosystem to a foreign mining company so they can ruin an entire ecosystem and desecrate an important spiritual place. The San Carlos Apache have been fighting for the Oak Flats for over ten years and they’ve also had many non-tribal people fighting with them. In the end, it didn’t matter to McCain. I realize most politicians don’t give a damn about Indians or our interests. Oak Flats, the Dann sisters, and Recapture Canyon come to mind, but other people do care and now we’re all in the crosshairs.

    It’s correct that the ‘land grab movement’ is not popular with most citizens. However, if those that support the movement make political maneuvers like McCain and his co-horts made when they gave the Oak Flats to a foreign mining company then the people’s opinion and desires do not matter.

    If they will give away a rare riparian forest and important water resource, that is also of deep cultural significance, then they will turn loose of anything and everything if they think they can turn a dime.

    I do believe I have more respect for pond scum than most politicians. There really is no word in the English language that describes how low these people are. If we underestimate the depth to which most politicians will stoop I think we will make a grave mistake. The Oak Flats were not lost because of legislation that went through the legal process. They were lost because of a rider attached to a must pass bill.

    • Louise Kane says:

      “In my opinion, the politicians will do what their lobbyists tell them to do rather than what the majority of the citizens want.”

      So true Yvette, wildlife and natural resources are victimized because lobbyists matter more than citizens.

      I see how much it kills you to have lost the Oak Flats. I share that sentiment, I lament the Tongass Forest give away on that same rider. 75K acres to be logged. The home of the Alexander Arhicpelago wolves.A rare temperate rain forest to be dismantled and desecrated to make board lumber.

      Really, our government officials should be doing everything they can to protect the little bit of intact habitats that exist and keep them off limits. I hate riders, a plague on democracy

  9. monty says:

    Some of the highest value federal lands are the “westside coniferous rich national forests in Oregon and Washington. And in California all of the federal forests are a national treasure. At this point, it is difficult to imagine any set of circumstances where the “reds” could steal these federal lands. The myth that Texas represents western wide open spaces is BS. What isn’t urban and small farms is pock marked with barbwire fences and no trespassing signs. This is why so many Texans go to Colorado to kill their elk. God bless federal lands!!!

    This latest land grab is about unsustainable human growth. All of that empty, low productive, high elevation federal lands that is waiting for the second round of wagon trains to bring those good pilgrims west so that they can compete for more water that doesn’t exist.

  10. monty says:

    Nancy: The only federal lands found in Texas are a few military bases, Padre Island national seashore, Big Bend and Guadalope national parks and a small national forest in east Texas that total less than 5000 square miles while the state of Texas is about 261,000 square miles.So the vast,vast majority of Texas is either urban or “fenced in” farms, ranches, oil parches or windfarms. No “Big Wild”. The Buffalo can’t roam because of all the fences. The only high dry elevation lands in Texas are in Big Bend NP!!

    • WM says:


      I think you confuse land ownership in TX, with a “philosophy of landownership” by Texans anywhere. The Texas mindset is one of privatization, and therein lies the very important distinction, and a philosophy they are glad to carry anywhere TX business interests would engage in private enterprise. And, if I recall correctly, and I am sure I do, there are a number of Texans who have private financial interests in CO and a lot of other places. A few out of state TX elk hunters in CO, is not an accurate representation of interests. There is a lot of TX money in the development companies that built condos in Vail, and the strip along I-70 west of the Continental Divide. TX companies are still in that business, by the way. There is also a lot of TX money in AZ and other Western states. Why would they not lobby their own Congressional types to expand that influence and compromise federal land in the process.

      Again, I don’t think this stuff has gotten very far (and I hope it never does). BUT, the threat exists and it is very real.

      • WM says:

        By the way, 25 of 36 (over 2/3) House seats in Congress are R. Both Senators are R, including one Ted Cruz who is the topic of this particular thread. That give you any idea of the shear potential that could come out of TX seeking release of some federal lands to states/private hands, with a little pressure from other Western states?

  11. Ralph Maughan says:

    One of the the reasons the land grab advances despite lack of public support is that the public does not know how their legislators and members of Congress vote or voted on this issue. Ourpubliclands.org reports that in Arizona “survey data indicates that while most Arizona voters take a positive view of a candidate who supports protecting public lands and espouses pro-conservation positions, a majority (58%) say they are not sure what position their member of Congress has taken on protecting land, air and water.” In fact, this current Arizona legislature has passed a number of land grab measures. They are currently on the governor’s desk.

    This is a critical missing link to making representatives accountable — knowledge of what they have done. It tells why emphasis of the issue is important. How many Idahoans, especially Republicans, know Crapo and Risch’s position. Lack of knowledge lets Crapo continue on talking about consensus and giving vague reassurances.

  12. monty says:

    Good points WM! A note of interest: Recently, Utah has purchased TV time to encourage tourists to visit their 5 Federal National parks.

  13. Carolyn Conti says:

    Greed is of course at the root of it all. Big money is behind the pandering of America. Now it is the land set aside for our enjoyment, heritage and legacy that our Congressman are ready to sell out. Losing these lands will cost America dearly. Our wildlife ecosystems will
    be destroyed. Forests will be raped by the lumber industry. Pasture land (by way of the BLM) will disappear and the wild horses rounded up and taken to slaughter. All for the sake of the all mighty dollar. Americans need to do something now while this is being voted on. Make your voices known. Republicans and Democrats should be ashamed!!

  14. Leslie says:

    I have to wonder several things about this land grab:
    1. Ted Cruz’s bill that the feds cannot own more than 50% of any state’s lands. Basically that only includes Alaska and Nevada. Now we all know no one can live in Nevada, so it appears that this is a ploy to open up Alaska for its vast resources that will just get vaster with global warming (which of course he doesn’t ‘believe’ in)
    2. Once the states do the numbers, I doubt it will add up. Between Forest reserve and BLM revenues that are transferred to states along with PILT, that is a sizeable chunk of money. And add a few forest fires to that, and immediately it won’t pay.

    I am very curious as to others thoughts here. I am not that acquainted with PILT and other types of income that states receive, but it seems the math is sizeable. My own county in 2014 received almost $1.5 million from it.

    • skyrim says:

      I doubt that when the debate broadens there will be little discussion of PILT payments. The Pro side of the issue will try and keep the masses uninformed, which from my own perspective, will not be hard to do.

      • Leslie says:

        In WY they allotted $75,000 to study the issue and of course they are very aware of PILT and other monies. I’ve been told that a ‘study’ is a way to placate the minority pushing for this and its a ‘kick the can down the road’ tactic.


April 2015


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey