By now it is likely that short memory-span Americans have forgotten the infamous Bundy standoff where a seditious band of armed militias chased federal officials off federal government land with their tails between their legs. The Bundy standoff was centered around Cliven Bundy, the Koch brothers, and Republicans’ contention that the American people’s federal government has no right to own any land; land they claim rightly belongs to and under purview of the oil, mining, and logging industries. In fact, there has been a concerted effort by the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and several Republican-controlled Western states to seize federal land from the government and give corporations private ownership in the pursuit of unregulated profits. The idea of caring for, and preserving, the land for the American people is an abomination to Republicans, and Mormon Utah has been a leading player in the drive to force the federal government to cede its property over to the Koch brothers.
It took less than a day after Kim Davis’ new BFF Pope Francis “appealed to Congress to help protect our common home” for a Utah legislator, Rob Bishop (R-UT), to announce his intention to abolish the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is now, and has been, highly regarded as world’s best parks program and like anything considered good in America, Republicans and the Kochs want it either destroyed, or handed over to the Kochs for exploitation and ruination free of environmental and safety regulations.
It is a sign of America under Koch Republican tyranny that the legislation, which is generally expected to pass easily, will indeed place “dozens of America’s National Parks at heightened risk of commercial and industrial development;” precisely what the Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, Republicans, and ALEC have been pushing for some time now.
Before any American thinks the Koch Republican move is about controlling spending or reining in debt, LWCF is what is regarded as a “budget neutral program” that costs taxpayers nothing whatsoever. The program is supported by fees from offshore gas and oil development and was created specifically to fund national, state, and regional conservation projects that include the National Parks system enjoyed by 282 million tourists last year alone. The program is set to expire at the end of September and as Mormon chair of the House National Resources Committee and Koch acolyte, Bishop is going to make sure it stays expired forever in spite of “widespread bipartisan support.” Bipartisan support or not, when the Kochs want a program eliminated, Republicans will dutifully toe the line and proceed as ordered.
Bishop said, in a press release, that he will kill all attempts to save the program unless the Koch brothers are allowed to impose “significant structural changes to prevent the federal government from protecting federal land” from commercial development and raping by the mining, oil, and logging industry. Bishop said that “Under my chairmanship, the status quo will be changed,” and if Americans are confused at what Bishop means by changing the status quo, he means putting an end to preserving America’s National Parks.
Apparently, what has Bishop up in arms besides a very popular, and budget neutral, National Park system that Americans universally enjoy and appreciate, is that they are on protected federal government land immune from development by the dirty fossil fuel and logging industries; something the Kochs, Mormons, and Republicans believe is an atrocity. Bishop did not get very specific about what kind of changes will convince him to allow the LCWF to remain in existence, but it is certain the changes will not include anything that funds or preserves the National Park System according to his plan last year.
Bishop wrote that the Kochs want the LWCF transformed into a program to pay “American energy industry workers” and to help local (Republican) governments. He did, however, single out one change that is crucial to the Koch brothers and Republicans across the country; abolish the federal government’s ability to buy any new or unprotected land within the National Parks’ borders that are known as “inholdings.” Oh, it is not that Mormon Bishop opposes what are known as “inholdings” being sold off to mining, oil, logging, and commercial entities, he is enamored with that plan.
No, what Bishop and the Koch brothers hate most is the idea of the U.S. government using LWCF funds to “purchase inholdings” to preserve for posterity and the American people. In fact, Bishop warned the federal government just three months ago that “there’s no way in Hell I am going to allow you to buy the inholdings or to expand the footprint of the federal government.” This fool’s warning is in spite of the “inholdings” already being within the boundaries of the footprint of federal government land.
Since its inception, the federal government has used LWCF funds to purchase inholdings as a means of protecting America’s National Parks from oil, mining, logging, and commercial development, drastically reduce maintenance costs, and improve management efficiency. According to a very recent analysis by the Centers for Western Priorities, since its creation the LWCF has protected over 2.2 million acres of land in America’s National Parks. Still, roughly 43 percent of National Park land in 44 states is at “risk of being developed because of unprotected private land within National Park boundaries.”
The report also states that if Bishop and the Kochs are successful and abolish the LWCF, Americans can forget about their National Parks being protected, much less existing, because they are all in danger of commercial and industrial development within the coming year if Bishop succeeds in doing the Koch’s bidding. They, analysts with CWP also warn that killing off the LWCF will mean that America’s most iconic landscapes will be owned, operated, exploited and raped by industry and commercialization to profit the Kochs and corporations.
As an example of what the Kochs and Bishop have in store for the National Parks, it is worth looking at what they want to do at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Instead of protecting a Civil War era Underground Railroad ‘site’ within park boundaries, there will be major commercial development on privately-owned land in and around the National Military Park. The NPS noted that it requires LWCF funds to “complete the purchase agreement” with private owners because there is already “intense (corporate) pressure to commercially develop land inside the Gettysburg National Military Park.”
It is a similar situation at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where the NPS planned to use available LWCF funds to purchase 640 acres of state-owned land in a few months. The entire area is at risk of being developed for rich people’s trophy homes and commercial enterprises that will destroy the integrity of the pristine environment, wipe out wildlife habitat and eviscerate crucial migration corridors as well as the landscape.” The Center for Western Priorities (CWP) wrote earlier this month that if the Koch Republican plan to abolish the LWCF reaches fruition, the National Park Service will be unable to protect federal land for future generations to enjoy.
Remember, when Republicans find a successful program benefitting the American people, no matter what it is, and if that program does not add to the federal budget or debt, Republicans do everything in their power to destroy it. In fact, the CWP wrote that “Unless Congress acts, LWCF will expire on September 30, 2015, leaving no way for our national parks to continue to be made whole” or exist as they do now. There may still be a Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Gettysburg National Military Park, but there will be shopping malls and mansions surrounding the oil rigs, open pit mines and barren landscape where forests once thrived.
There is no end to this abominable Koch Republican crusade to seize federal government land for the oil, mining, and logging industry to exploit and profit from. It is highly unlikely that the Kochs, ALEC, or Republican-led states have the power, yet, to just seize federal land, including the country’s national parks. However, with a newly-purchased Republican Congress in their employ, the Kochs will do the next best thing to stealing federal land and direct Republicans to do precisely what Mormon Bishop is doing; prohibit funding for the National Parks to bankrupt the system and sell them off to the Kochs in a bankruptcy sale.