What is happening to our country?
To sum up the last week would be nearly impossible, but one thing is for sure, while the cover of other news was swarming the Republican Party has started to implement the land seizure programs they always promised they would. Republicans even placed land seizure in the 2016 Republican National Convention platform:
Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states.
The public lands debate is being framed by Zinke, Daines, Gianforte and the Republican land seizure advocates as part of the states rights movement. This is a poor analysis for many reasons. One is that these lands are federal land. That means every American is entitled to their use, not just those citizens who happen to live and vote in Utah and Nevada, Alaska, Idaho and other western states.
Outside Magazine did a good fact check of the platform plank to seize public lands back in 2016. You can read the full piece here:
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel pulls no punches on the issue, describing its backers as part of an “extreme movement to seize public lands.” She goes on to describe their plan as “putting lands that belong to all Americans at risk of being sold off for a short-term gain to the highest bidder.”
The short version of the story is that, while the public land heist is being promoted as a states’ rights issue, that’s actually just smoke and mirrors. The states lack the financial ability to manage such large tracts of land (the fire-fighting budget alone would bankrupt many of them), virtually guaranteeing their sale. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the plan is to “strip public lands of protection and turn them over for private exploitation.”
According to some excellent polling data this issue is highly unpopular among swing state voters of Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Even among voters who voted for Trump the public land seizure is widely unpopular. (Polling data link)
Trump voters’ moods sour when asked if they would be more inclined or less inclined to support a candidate who favored selling America’s National Parks and Monuments.
In Pennsylvania and Ohio, 66% of self-identified Trump voters said they would be somewhat less or much less inclined to support a candidate who favored proposals like Secretary Zinke’s.
In Michigan, 61% of voters felt that way. And in Wisconsin, 59% of self-identified Trump voters said they were somewhat less or much less inclined to support such a candidate.
The way these monument reductions was rolled out was intentionally misleading as well. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were mentioned ahead of time to test the waters and then throughout the week the monuments just kept shrinking or management was shifted to states. According to the Washington Post:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday called on President Trump to shrink a total of four national monuments and change the way six other land and marine sites are managed, a sweeping overhaul of how protected areas are maintained in the United States.
In addition to the Utah sites, Zinke supports cutting Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, though the exact reductions are still being determined. He also would revise the proclamations for those and the others to clarify that certain activities are allowed.
The additional monuments affected include Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean; both Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands in the Pacific Ocean; New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte, and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters.
The games that Secretary Zinke and Republicans are playing with these shifting and secretive plans to gut our national monuments was just the first step. More will come.
It didn’t take long as Steve Daines joined in the seizure of public lands. Daines has introduced a bill to eliminate protections for the West Pioneer, Sapphire, Middle Fork Judith, Big Snowies, and Blue Joint Wilderness Study Areas. via Montana Public Radio
“We’re talking about the largest elimination of protected public lands in the history of Montana,” says John Todd, conservation director for the Montana Wilderness Association.
Daines’ bill would end certain protections for almost 500,000 acres of land designated as Wilderness Study Areas, or WSAs.
Steve Daines does a good job of keeping a low profile, but this bill will definitely fire up many Montanans who use the outdoors to hunt, fish and recreate.
An online poll was conducted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle this weekend asking whether Montanans supported Daines land grab. 88% opposed at last check. Feel free to vote here yourself: BDC Poll
Obviously, a not wholly accurate poll as the methods of an online poll do not follow a random sampling as required to make a poll as representative a screenshot as possible. Still, 88% is a pretty resounding NO to Daines and his land grab.
On to the least surprising figure , of course, Greg Gianforte. He’s always predictable.
If you remember Greg Gianforte famously lost the Montana Gubernatorial race in 2016 because of his efforts to prevent public access to public lands.
Multimillionaire Congressman Greg Gianforte followed the marching orders of his party bosses and voted to gut the Antiquities Act, which allows for the creation of national monuments. The bill Gianforte supports would allow the president to drastically reduce the size of national monuments, in addition to limiting designations to 85,000 acres and creating a cumbersome approval process for all but the smallest monuments.
This runs counter to what he said repeatedly while running for office. Back in April he told MTPR, “Public land needs to stay in public hands. And by that I mean federal hands.”
If that is truly what he believes, then why would he vote to allow the size of national monuments to be reduced, permanently threatening public lands like the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument?
It’s not the first time he’s shown that his support for public lands is all talk. Back in 2009, he famously sued to block a public easement on his property.
Greg Gianforte has been in office just over 5 months and he seems laser focused on supporting the extreme land seizure agenda and destroying protections for Montana public lands. Gianforte has always had an issue with keeping his word, but this is too much, he does not understand Montana and does not share our Montana values.
It’s up to you to keep standing up and holding events stating your support of public lands and our shared and cherished heritage of public lands in Montana.