It is hardly a secret that Republicans wholly-support and agree with their masters, the Koch brothers, that every sector of government has to be eliminated. In fact, Republicans so hate the government, that they deliberately find extremely successful, wildly popular, and revenue neutral programs to either underfund to prove government cannot work, or just do what comes naturally and destroy them with extreme prejudice.
There is a Koch brother mindset that Republicans willingly embrace that the United States government has no legal right to own land, and that the National Parks system and wilderness areas are abominations to the fossil fuel, mining, and logging industries’ profits. Without success in forcing the federal government to cede its ownership and protection of the American people’s National Parks, wilderness areas, and cultural heritage sites to the Koch brothers, Republicans did the next best thing and defunded the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Now that the Kochs own Congress and were able to install a willing anti-government Republican as Chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, they were thrilled to learn they succeeded in killing the LWCF in yet another step toward turning over government to corporate control. It is irrefutable that the LWCF is one of the most successful conservation programs in America’s history with no cost to taxpayers, and it is why it was crucial for the Koch brothers to score a win for themselves and jeopardize America’s national parks.
The Koch’s victory was in spite of alleged broad bipartisan support to keep the LWCF in operation, but since they own the entire Congress, the Kochs’ anti-government acolytes refused to reauthorize the program effectively killing it. What that means for the offshore oil and gas production fees funding LWCF is that Koch Republicans will shift LWCF funding into their favorite special interests such as partisan political campaigns against Hillary Clinton, subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and of course the military industrial complex and Israel.
As head of the Natural Resources Committee, the Mormon Bishop marshaled support from other Koch sycophants on the far right who believe that the federal government is criminal in thinking it can own or preserve federal land for the American people. Bishop, like his Mormon cohort Cliven Bundy, is very anti-federal government and contends that like federally-owned land and national parks, any money collected from oil and gas producers belongs to his state to do with as it pleases. This in spite of Congress eliminating a bizarre requirement in 1970 that funding from offshore drilling goes to state projects that Republicans typically hand directly to the wealthy and corporations in the form of greater tax cuts.
What is somewhat surprising is that earlier this summer, dozens of representatives on both sides of the aisle signed on to a letter calling for more support for the perpetually underfunded program that has already conserved more than seven million acres for the American people to enjoy. LWCF purchases wildlife habitat, buys private inholdings within wildernesses and national parks, preserves cultural heritage sites, provides public access for fishing and hunting, and pays for urban parks, playgrounds and ball fields in communities across America. All of those benefits are anathema to Koch extremists running Congress, and it is noteworthy that if funding LWCF into perpetuity was allowed “a straight-up vote, reauthorization would pass both the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities.” Reauthorizing LWCF will never be put up for a vote because the Kochs will not allow it.
Since its creation in 1964, the LWCF has accomplished, without using even one penny of taxpayer money, “pumping almost $17 billion into federal, state, and local parks, protected more than 500 million acres of land, paid for almost two-thirds of the Appalachian Trail.” LWCF also funded over 90 percent of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania without using one penny of taxpayer money. LWCF is wholly-funded by revenues from gas and oil companies’ fees for drilling offshore in water owned by the American people; another atrocity according to Republicans and the Koch brothers.
The Mormon doing the Koch brothers’ bidding, Utah Representative Rob Bishop, said that any legislator, including any Republican, who fought to preserve the LWCF for the American people are “special interest traitors seeking to hijack LWCF to continue to expand the federal land holdings and divert even more monies away from localities.” Bishop is a typical lying Mormon; LWCF money could not possibly be “diverted” from localities because it was never theirs to begin with. Further, when Bishop cites “localities” he means areas that the Kochs want under the purview of the fossil fuel, mining, and logging industries. Bishop’s crusade is, without any possible doubt, furthering the Koch brother agenda to put an end to the government owning land, creating or maintaining the National Park system, and particularly to eliminate public use of government land they think just might have what Bishop contends are “extractable resources under it.”
There is a movement to reauthorize LWCF forever being pushed by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PN) who co-sponsored a permanent reauthorization bill. Grijalva said on introducing the legislation,
“Drawing out the uncertainty over the program’s funding every few years serves no one, especially when our constituents so strongly believe in the LWCF’s mission and value to the country. We should make it permanent, avoid prolonged budget battles and get back to the business of protecting our natural spaces. Anything less is a disservice to the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt and the generations of Americans who gave us the many beautiful American landscapes we enjoy today.”
He also had some harsh words for Koch extremists who killed LWCF. He said,
“You can see just how extreme some House Republicans really are when a popular conservation program with a spotless, fifty-year history of bipartisan reauthorization expires thanks to their partisan games. They can’t pass a highway bill, they can’t fund the government, they’re still struggling with a defense bill, and now they insist that LWCF funding has to stop.”
The Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, fairly summed up why allowing the Koch brothers to declare victory at killing a very successful and popular program is just another Republican atrocity and why letting the Kochs buy Congress is a truly unmitigated disaster. Jewell said,
“After 50 years of resounding success in enriching America’s great outdoors, the Land and Water Conservation Fund needlessly faces an uncertain future. I am extremely disappointed that, despite overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress has allowed this innovative and effective program to expire. As a result, America’s national parks are now at a higher risk of corporate development within their borders, we will have fewer tools to protect access to hunting and fishing spots, and local parks and open space projects in all 50 states face cancellation.”
Americans should not expect LWCF to be reauthorized despite broad bipartisan support, or its popularity with over 200 million Americans who visit and recreate on federal land and national parks every year, because the Kochs will not allow it and Democrats are powerless to drive legislation of any kind.
Remember, after Republicans wiped out unemployment benefit extensions, voting rights, renewable energy and workplace protections and Democrats pledged to fix the problems, nothing happened because they do not set the legislative agenda; the Koch Republicans do. Since the Kochs ordered Republicans to kill LWCF there is nothing Democrats, or reasonable Republicans, can do because thanks to the Koch brothers and voter apathy, the GOP has majority power in both houses and Americans have no power to protect their National Parks or wilderness areas; the Koch brothers have directed Republicans to ensure that sad, sick fact of life remains in perpetuity.