2012 election to set off furious battle to sieze the public lands

Past efforts to grab national forests, parks, wildlife refuges led by livestock industry. Now it will be Koch Bros, oil, GOP-

Some call our public lands “American’s common treasure,” but the love of our land expressed in many forms, and the freedom they provide, have not stopped what are sometimes called “sagebrush rebellions” every decade or so. In the past, these “rebellions” have always been led by the livestock industry. The ranchers generally talk of local control and state’s rights and seek transfer of all but the national parks to the states, although in 1946-7 they actually tried to get the “grazing lands” transferred directly to themselves for free.

These efforts have always been beaten back once the public learned what was at stake, but now the really big lobby has stepped to the plate. The energy industry, especially oil, as represented by the Koch Brothers formed and funded ALEC, is expected to instantly flood western state legislatures with land transfer bills as soon as the state legislatures meet in 2013.

ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has been wining and dining and taking state legislators on junkets, all the while discussing the lands. This right wing organization of state legislators is especially strong in Utah, where Romney is expected to draw many members of his Administration. Amid protests, this year ALEC even had their national convention in Utah.

If Romney is elected President, they will have a powerful friend in the White House. Romney has expressed disdain for public lands. If Obama is reelected, his wobbly commitment to our public lands is likely but a thin defense. While Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar will at last be gone, he could be replaced by someone much worse by Romney, or by someone not necessarily any better than Salazar, by Obama.

Earlier this year, Romney told a Nevada newspaper, I don’t know the purpose of all this federal land in the West. Then he made it clear he supports Republican land transfer bills. In the second presidential debate both men, most clearly Romney though, simply saw the public lands as a storehouse of present and potential energy development.

Obama faces the so-called “fiscal cliff” right after the election when regardless he will still be President. This will be in the “lame duck” session of Congress held before the new Congress and President take office. This “cliff” is a kind of “dead man’s trigger” that the two parties foolishly set up subsequent to the unnecessary and dangerous battle over raising the national debt ceiling back in April – May 2011. To disarm it, they will be looking for money to make the national debt appear smaller. Auctioning off our land might seem to be an attractive measure.

Children explore national forest land in central Utah not far from their home. Will this land be auctioned off to remote interests and wealthy around the globe? Copyright Ralph Maughan

Regardless of any federal lands sales, the Western states will quickly auction off any significant lands they receive because they have no money or capability to manage such a huge, sudden land glut even if they wanted to. For example, almost 2/3 of Idaho is national forest, national park, national wildlife refuge or the lesser known lands managed the the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.). All Western states have significant amounts of national public lands inside their borders. It is one of the very things that defines the West — “the public land states.”

Noted author about the public lands and the West, Tim Egan, recently wrote an essay for the New York TimesThe Geography of Nope.” In it he describes the current situation and what might happen soon to our treasured public land and wide open spaces.

I taught the university level class “politics of public lands” for many years. It was clear the students loved the freedom to roam — to hike, climb, fish, photograph, rockhound, camp, study nature, hunt, boat, and motor around without asking permission or paying a huge fee to some absentee billionaire landowner. Unfortunately most had little knowledge of the difference between national parks and national forests, or of BLM lands, or national wildlife refuges. They didn’t know how this treasure came to be or how it was maintained. They didn’t know it isn’t this way in other countries or even in the Eastern States.

Neither did many know of the politics of grazing, timbering, mineral leasing, or appropriations for the public lands. These were Idaho students mostly too, the very ones supposedly most affected by and “in tune” to the public lands.

People without basic knowledge can fall for a slogan like “the states can do it better” because they are unaware how poorly the Western states manage their present mostly meager state land holdings (hint: it is managed mostly for cheap grazing for their stockgrowing allies except where there are minerals). They don’t know that keeping these lands public, though at the state level, would quickly bankrupt the states. Consider that controlling the Idaho wildfire this summer pumped $170-million of federal money into the state’s shaky economy. If Idaho had to do it, they would have just burned.

Tim Egan’s NYT article, referred to above, tells how one goes hunting in Italy. From it an easy conclusion is, if anyone wants to put an end to hunting, except for preserves for the very rich, there is no more certain way to do it than to privatize, sell off, our public lands.

– – – – –

Update: Romney and the public lands.

Romney To Nevadans: I Don’t Know ‘What The Purpose Is’ Of Public Lands (Hint: They Pump $1 Billion Into the State Economy).  Think Progress. Feb 3, 2012



  1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    Imagine Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, as Secretary of the Interior. Sound far-fetched? It will become a significant possibility if Romney is elected. He took Romney huntin’, ya know. They’re buddies.

    Peay is the decider in Utah when it comes to picking directors of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, members of the Utah Wildlife Board, etc. And believe me, he sees a Romney presidency as his chance to become the national big kahuna on wildlife. He has undoubtedly arranged for SFW to donate many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Romney campaign. So even if he is not appointed to a high position in the Romney administration, he will have a lot of say on who becomes the Secretary of Interior and head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s a fact.

    1. Louise Kane Avatar

      Kirk your assessment sounds more like a prophesy and one that sends chills down my spine. Its hard to imagine things much worse but yet then again, its not.

      1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
        Kirk Robinson


        I’m certainly no prophet; and actually, I think it is pretty unlikely that Don Peay would be nominated for Secretary of the Interior, or for anything else. He doesn’t have the right credentials and he is too controversial. By suggesting that it might happen I was being deliberately alarmist. But my purpose is to remind people that he is a much more potent force on public land use and wildlife management issues than many people think, and will be even more influential under a Romney administration. He often maneuvers behind the scenes to get things done. And that often means getting someone in office who will pursue his agenda.

        Several years I ago I heard Peay say to Rep. Chenowith, R-Idaho, in a public meeting that “public land is a blessing.” But there is now every reason to believe that his position on this has changed.

        1. Kayla Avatar

          There might be another person who would be interesting to watch and has worked in prior adminstrations. And his name is John Turner and is from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He has served in several administrations and loves the environment. The Turner Family owns and runs the Triangle X Ranch and has a outfitting business locally and are considered oldtimers locally. If somehow John Turner became the next Secretary of Interior, in my opinion would be better then Ken Salazar.

  2. Mark L Avatar
    Mark L

    Odd how a ‘slightly-psycho’ House and a Presidential candidate that wants to have a giant garage sale of our national trust will make one nervously back away from a party platform, huh. I’d hoped when Ryan got picked up, he’d say “Hey boss, how about rethinking the whole sell off thing?”, but it didn’t happen. Instead they want to put a catheter through our country and tell us to go take an aspirin (and then pay for it, too).

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I don’t see any motivation for Ryan to convince Romney to keep public lands. He’s rich too and can afford to keep hunting if it becomes private.

      I think the headline here is that selling off public lands would take away what the right-wing is trying to turn into a “right” to hunt and fish.

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L

        I’m down with that. Trade our camo in for tweed, and substitute our ATV’s for horses and what do you have?
        History repeating itself…(just 1 continent over).

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        I think Ryan greatly exaggerated his outdoors experience, like he did his ability as a marathoner.

        He said he submitted all of Colorado’s 14,000 thousand foot peaks. When did he have time? He also would have had to move to Colorado or a high altitude state. He would otherwise likely have to continually fight back altitude sickness.

        1. Salle Avatar

          Well, Ryan and Rmoney certainly have made every effort to prove that they are both consummate liars, control freaks and thieves so…. I’m pretty sure that you not only can’t trust them, you can’t anticipate that they have anyone’s interests but their own (and that of their owners’) interests in mind.

          If these cads are elected or steal the election, it’s feudalism time! (worse than we already have at present)

          1. Salle Avatar

            Koch Industries Warns 45,000 Employees Of ‘Consequences’ If They Don’t Vote For Republicans


            1. Salle Avatar

              and among the dirty tricks being played out in this seemingly last gasp of democracy…

              Does the Romney Family Now Own Your e-Vote?


          2. Louise Kane Avatar

            steal the election with all the campaiging funds raised by corporate people

        2. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue

          When did Ryan say he summited all Colorado’s fourteeners? After spending a couple weeks in the Flat Tops, after a week in Aurora, I did six in two days. If one has an entire Summer, or is extremely ambitious, it’s possible to do them all in a month, or less.

          Then again, through his marathon claim, we know this guy is quite capable of self agrandizing embellishment.

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Immer Treue,

            It looks like the claim was embellished not so much my Ryan, but by friends and foes.

            The claim, whatever it was, has been dialed back. I think the claim is now that Ryan has climbed some mountains, maybe some in Colorado. The most likely thing Ryan said was that he climbed 28 peaks or maybe just routes in Colorado. See this blog http://is.gd/F9CueX

            1. Immer Treue Avatar
              Immer Treue


              Not a challenge, I just hadn’t heard about Ryan and 14teeners. I wonder at the age of 12 if he was cognizant of the history of heart problems in his male lineage. Probably making too much of nothing. But then again, Davy Crockett killed himself a bear when he was only three, or was that legend, also?

            2. Pronghorn Avatar

              “Forty climbs on 28 different peaks.”


              Check out the picture that accompanies the story. (Of course, you can DRIVE up Pike’s Peak…just sayin’.) I’ve climbed six or seven fourteeners; at the risk of being discovered an exaggerator, I’d better go with six for now.

        3. Savebears Avatar


          I have a relative that has climbed Everest twice and he lives in New York City, no altitude sickness on either climb. To add to his climbing, he also runs Iron Man Triathlons. He has climbed the tallest peak on all 7 continents, and lives at sea level.

          1. Savebears Avatar

            To add, he is the CFO of a large bank, so he is pretty busy also.

            1. Immer Treue Avatar
              Immer Treue

              Climbing Everest, on “perhaps”guided, with suplimental oxygen, is still a risky and monumental venture. People continue to die up there.

              That said, perhaps the highest hurdle to summiting Everest is the cost. Last I heard, guided expeditions cost an individual in the ballpark of 60-65 thousand. CFO salary, probably within reach.

            2. Immer Treue Avatar
              Immer Treue

              Also, I believe most Everest ventures, one is gone for up to a month, with a complex acclimatization process on the mountain itself. One does not just climb Everest as one does fourteeners.

              On Everest’s south face, the most popular route, base camp itself is ~17,400 feet, or about 3,000 feet (3 Sears Towers) higher than the tallest 14teener. Almost anyone reading this would probably die if you were immediately transferred to that altitude.

              Think about it, Everest, to sit on top of the world!

            3. Savebears Avatar

              “Think about it, Everest, to sit on top of the world!”

              Yup and my relative did it twice!

  3. Pronghorn Avatar

    Criteria: “Who’s a good Republican? Who needs a job?”
    Everyone from Lisa Murkowski to Dennis Rehberg (!!!) is mentioned here–it’s a nightmarish line-up from top to bottom.


    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Oh boy. That’ll cause you to lose sleep at nite. 🙁 I noticed that during the last debate, Mittster seemed quite zealous to get ahold of federal lands for drilling.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        I fear that if “Mittster” gets elected there’s going to be a whole lot of ooops in regard to be careful for what you wish.

        This guy understands the middle class and those below with the clarity of a one armed man rowing a canoe on a foggy lake at night. His empathy for working stiffs manifested itself while at Bane (Baine?).

        Public lands. A whole “nother” degree of cluelessness, and a possible step (probable step) in the direction of collapsing all the gains made over the past forty years or so.

    2. Salle Avatar

      It appears that their first line choices are coming from the sludge at the bottom of the crudest of oil drums.

  4. CodyCoyote Avatar

    The very LAST entity or agency I want running any public resource is my State of Wyoming and its merry band of Robber Barons.


  5. Anthony Criscola Avatar
    Anthony Criscola

    The election of Romney/Ryan will be the death rattle of our public lands.

    1. Salle Avatar

      Well, selling off the public lands is most likely the secret part of his tax plan that covers the rest of that $7 trillion he plans to give in breaks to his wealthy buddies after they buy his “selection” with those e-voting machines in Ohio. It’s how the Bu$hleague re-selection was bought in 2004 after all.

      Mitten$ says a lot of crap but his agenda is obvious in his little blurbs that hardly get much notice in the corporate media. And you can tell when he’s lying and covertly giving a nod to his benefactors by that little “tsk” sound he makes before the BS spews forth. Just watch any of his public appearances and take note of that little mannerism and what he says after those “tsks”. He reminds me of those monied POSs who offered me nice paying jobs if only I’d perform sick sex acts to get them. But publicly they’re “such nice people”.

      I had a really hard time watching the debates because I can’t stand the sound of their lying BS.

      Best picture of Mittens’ true face after one or more of his lies was debunked:


      The caption might be (with apologies to Jeff Dunham and his Dead Terrorist puppet) “I keeel you!”

      1. SAP Avatar

        Salle – I am not talented with photoshop, but that picture of Romney seemed so familiar. Then I realized it was Derek Zoolander doing “Blue Steel”:


        1. Salle Avatar


          LOL! Close but Zoolander is a model, Mittens is a rich, spoiled adolescent who just got spanked. BTW, there’s a new Zoolander movie in the works.

          And, I know it’s not about wildlife but since this thread is in reference to the future regarding the election results, the ED Show is worth watching this evening, even if you don’t really like Ed… (For his entire show he went to Freeport, IL to talk about the paradox of this small town where Bain is shipping hundreds of auto parts manufacturing jobs to China while the tire manufacturer in the same town was just redeemed from closure by the incumbent’s new tariff on Chinese tires.) A bare bones approach to what he’s calling “Romney’s World” post election… worth a watch.


      2. Louise Kane Avatar

        You know what is the worst, is the pundits post debate discussing style, attack strategies, who was rude…. everything but who tells the truth. When a fact is found to be faulty there is so little import paid to it, its laughable. Its now just watching a population contest with people voting for who tells the most lies and looks best doing it. Both parties are afraid to speak the truth about hard cold facts, to support science and logic, and to ever tell the truth. I am disgusted and terrified of a RR presidency, and how we have become such a nation where a plunderer, liar, and corporate raider can be in the ring and it can be such a close election.

  6. Jay Avatar

    The Confederated Catron Western States: home to rich politicians, mining/oil extraction companies, and cattle barons.

    1. Louise Kane Avatar
      Louise Kane

      “Gov. Romney And Rep. Paul Ryan Want To Drill, Slash, And Sell Our Public Lands”

      why should this headline surprise anyone, its been his approach to the successful business ventures he always lies about.

  7. CodyCoyote Avatar

    At great risk of being abducted by the modern version of the Mormon raider ” Day-Nites” and taken to a dungeon in Salt Lake City, I have to offer this broad brush opinion of Mitt, the Mormons, and the states’ rights movement to acquire federal public lands to exploit:

    The Mormon faith has a core belief that is applicable to this discussion. They believe that this Earth , this world, this time period is just a stage in a spiritual journey from the Pre-World to the Afterlife where they will be given a world of their own to abide . That future world of their long home is the only one tha matters. OUR planet here and now is just something to be used and consumed to get to their version of Paradise or eternal abode. Mormons have no compunction about exploiting natural resources , since to them it is scrupture , at least between the lines. All of that grass, water, ore, forests, rivers … everything …was put here in advance of their coming to be used. If that helps explain their attitude about land a resources to you .
    It sure explains Utah to me…

    I myself am agnostic but was raised amid a slew of circumferential Mormons. My town of Cody is 45 percent LDS ( when I was born here in 1951 that was less than 5 percent). Have come to know them and their beliefs well, as much as they will allow us gentiles to peer into their inner/alternate Universe. This belief that resources were supposed to be used without remorse is something I’ve heard from many LDS.

    Now my own state of Wyoming legislatures have caught this federal land grab virus.

    1. DB Avatar


      I worked with a planner in the Supervisor’s office of the Nez Perce NF many years ago when we were revising our forest plan. He was a devout Mormon. He told me his feelings about the use of public resources and they pretty much echo the comments in your second paragraph above. He was obviously conflicted about our mandate to manage for the long term good of all resources and his religious convictions. He resigned from the Forest Service and I remember him fondly and with great respect.

  8. Salle Avatar

    Clean Water Act: Industry Influence, Political Environment Dangerously ‘Different’ 40 Years After Passage, Warn Advocates


  9. Craig Avatar

    Ralph, do you think this has anything to do with Idaho trying to pass the HJR 2 resolution? Seems like strange timing? http://openstates.org/id/bills/2012/HJR2/

  10. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I suppose my suggestion would be to tell every one you come in contact with about this and also write both candidates THAT such a policy is totally completely unacceptable.

  11. CodyCoyote Avatar

    I guess this is as good a time and place to make a suggestion about the election. If you feel you must vote ( and you should) but are disgruntled with the two top candidates and their dysfunctional parties and the money laundering and corrupt political monkeyshines being passed off as ” democracy in action ” , please know there are alternatives.

    I plan on writing in ” Jill Stein ” for President. She is the Green Party candidate and is from Massachusetts ( where I am also supporting Elizabeth Warner with a small donation). yes, there really IS a Green Party of the USA and you can read their platform and policy positions a their very comprehensive website. Maybe it’s time we broke out of this bipolar 2.1 Party mindset ( small deference to Libertarians from me, and zilch for the impostors of the Tea Party).


    Home Page: http://www.gp.org

  12. Kayla Avatar

    Now do know there are many ‘Republicans’ who love the federal lands and all also who are NOT a part of this sagebrush rebellion. Now heard AZ. has a measure on the ballot to take back control of the Grand Canyon and all the federal land in AZ. There are extremists in both parties. But now those that might be more moderate might be in the process of being pushed out in both parties.

    I personally think the the election will swing to the Republicans this time because people always seem to vote their pocketbook and people are suffering. There has been no talk on the environment from either party in this election.

    Do know that there is a great State Senator representing Jackson, Wy. here who is a Morman and also loves the wilderness and the environment. I see him every spring -early summer with his entire family back in the Thorofare in the Teton Wilderness. So not all Republican are bad people. There are alot of them who love the outdoors and the wilderness also. I see and talk with them every summer it seems deep back in the Wyoming Wilderness in my wilderness wanderings.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Actually there are two public land propositions on the AZ ballot. Prop 119 and prop 120. Quoting from the High Country News, “. . . Proposition 119 . . . wants the state and federal government to exchange land to improve management and to protect the “mission readiness” of the state’s military bases. By carefully consolidating state and federal land, Prop. 119 would also promote solar energy while protecting public lands for conservation and public use. The measure requires an extraordinary degree of openness, including a requirement that the voters must specifically approve future land exchanges.”

      Prop. 120 is the one you are probably writing about. Prop 120 would amend the Arizona Constitution and state that Arizona has sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the Arizona’s boundaries. The objective of Proposition 120 is to attain exclusive control of federal public land, i.e. national parks, national forests, national monuments, BLM land, and national wildlife refuges in Arizona. Most opponents are calling it an attempt to grab the Grand Canyon, probably because they figure people will understand that, but the land grab is much larger than the Grand Canyon — it is all the public lands.

      The measure is unconstitutional given the current federal judges. It is based on a discredited interpretation of the “equal-footing” doctrine of statehood. By “discredited,” I mean that it has already been tried in a past “sagebrush rebellion,” and the federal courts rejected the argument completely. Of course, with a Romney presidency the courts will change.

      I am saying it won’t make any immediate difference, but prop 120 is certainly a test of how gullible Arizona voters are.

      If you visit Arizona, you will find they can’t even afford to keep their state parks open much less manage millions of acres of federal land. When we visited Arizona in 2011 we found the camping fees in state parts were outrageously high. We learned the state government was using the Park fees to go to general fund revenue while the parks themselves remained neglected.

    2. Louise Kane Avatar

      Kayla can you ask these Republicans then to break with party line.

    3. JB Avatar

      “I personally think the the election will swing to the Republicans this time because people always seem to vote their pocketbook and people are suffering.”

      The polls suggest otherwise. In the majority of swing states people are actually doing far better than in states where the outcome is essentially decided–this means that the economy will not be as big a factor in deciding the election. If you believe the polls, the Democrats will hold on to the Senate, the Republicans will hold on to the House, and the White House will go narrowly for Obama.

      In any case, the House and Senate are very likely to be split, which means little will get done in Congress no matter who wins the WH.

      1. Louise Kane Avatar

        I hope you are right JB!

  13. Kayla Avatar

    Personally am not too worried for if they include the National Parks, how many ‘Republicans’ love the NP’s also.
    Plus if Romney is elected since he right now is leading in the prominent polls it seems, he is not some western sagebrusher but more of a Massachusetts moderate in my opinion. Like in the past, do not think much will come of these sagebrusher land rebellions. Remember when Pres. Bush proposed this, how quickly was it denounced from even many hunting and fishing Republicans. But I will be watching and it will be interesting to see what indeed happens on both of these. I did not know of the first one, Prop #119 but just that prop #120. The extremists in my opinion always lose for how many in the country are actually moderates and in the middle somewhere from what i have seen. Again it will be interesting to see what happens. Just my opinion.

    1. Louise Kane Avatar

      “he is not some western sagebrusher but more of a Massachusetts moderate in my opinion”

      wow is that what you see him as.

  14. Mark L Avatar
    Mark L

    All it takes is lazy moderates and very motivated extremists (and well worded propositions) to lose so much. Hopefully, we will one day hold the writers of this crappy legislation accountable. (people argue about the ‘under God’ part of our pledge, but forget the next word is the real argument)


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.

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