Most Americans, whether they complain about the government or not, have at least a passing interest in it remaining in existence for a variety of benefits they seldom bemoan receiving. What that means is that most Americans are in conflict with Republicans and their masters the Koch brothers who have made no secret they want the government eradicated with extreme prejudice from the top down. Republicans have duly served the Kochs’ interests by taking every opportunity to destroy every aspect of the government, except the military-welfare complex, by starving it of funding just to bolster their “government does not work” agenda.
A favorite target of Koch-Republicans is the National Park system that Republicans have so drastically underfunded that a Koch and ExxonMobil-funded organization is calling for an end to national parks and privatization of all federally-owned land. The argument being put forward by the executive director of Koch fossil fuel organization, Reed Watson, is that since the National Park system is hurting for funding, the only option is to first stop creating national parks and then cheaply sell off those already in existence. Why? Because according to the Koch brothers’ organization calling to sell off all public land and national parks, “True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have; we can protect it properly.”
The group pushing to sell off (privatize) the national park system to the fossil fuel industry, and indeed, sell off all public land to the highest corporate bidder, is the Koch and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). PERC, Exxon-Mobil, the Koch brothers, and Republicans across the nation contend that no state, federal, or local government has any right to own any land within America’s borders; it is precisely the same argument trumpeted by seditious anti-American rancher Cliven Bundy. Although Bundy’s contention is that he, Cliven Bundy, retains “sole stewardship rights over government-owned land,” he clearly fails to comprehend that the Kochs have a different vision of what their stewardship as private corporate owners will entail. Unless Cliven Bundy owns monumental drilling, mining, or lumber operations, he should make no mistake that when the Kochs own all government land, he will have no stewardship rights, grazing rights or input into how the land is managed whatsoever.
The Kochs and ExxonMobil have already committed PERC to publicly call for an end to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) because it is one of America’s most successful parks programs. LWCF is not in financial jeopardy yet because Republicans have failed to end its budget-neutral status. LWCF is budget-neutral as a result of using funds from offshore oil and gas development fees to fund projects across the country at the federal, state and local levels. The LWCF program supports some of nation’s “most iconic” national parks such as Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. It has also created tens-of-thousands of outdoor projects the general public uses regularly such as local parks and baseball diamonds in all 50 states. The Kochs want those local parks, like national parks, wilderness areas, and all federal land transferred to corporate ownership because “It just kills the fossil fuel industry and its allies that there’s any scrap of land that they can’t get their hands, or drilling rigs, on.” However, it is not for a lack of Republican efforts.
For example, last year as part of the ongoing Koch-funded and driven initiative to seize control of public lands from the federal government, Colorado Republicans, like Utah Republicans, introduced legislation calling for jurisdiction over federally-owned national forests, wilderness areas, national parks, and all Bureau of Land Management land. Now with PERC’s blatantly public involvement and push to privatize National Parks and federal lands, it appears the concerted effort is fully underway to seize government property to satisfy the greed of the Kochs and Exxon-Mobil by exploiting all federal land, including federally-protected wilderness areas and national parks, for fossil fuel profits. Three years ago Utah Mormons passed a law demanding that the federal government cede its ownership, and immediately turn over the titles of all federal lands in Utah including all wilderness areas and national parks the state planned to sell to the Koch brothers to “manage” as “owners” exempt from federal environmental regulations and oversight.
The concept of selling off federal land to the fossil fuel, mining, and lumber industry began in earnest in 1999 when the Kochs’ PERC complained publicly that “fully a third of the land area of the United States is owned by the federal government. Although many Americans support the preservation of those lands, the failure of socialism in the realm of resource economics is as evident as other areas of the economy.” Resource economic failure in Koch parlance means they cannot yet drill, mine, or log wherever they want and without being held to environmental regulations. So PERC offered some Koch reform criteria to convince the American people and disabuse the United States government of the idea it has any right to own any land in America. PERC asserts that, “land should be allocated to the highest-valued use, transaction costs should be kept to a minimum because auctioning off all public lands will enhance environmental quality and economic efficiency through private rather than public ownership.”
Americans should seriously start worrying, and pushing back against, these vile attempts by the Koch brothers and Republicans to sell off what is effectively the American people’s public land; particularly the 282 million Americans who visited the National Parks in 2011 alone. That figure does not include visits to state and regional parks, wilderness areas, or the many, many national monuments around the country or in and around the nation’s capital that are owned and operated by the people’s government; the government the Kochs and Republicans want eliminated.
It is true that on their own, the Koch brothers are incapable of taking over all federal, state, and local government land and properties, but with Republicans doing their bidding in Congress and state legislatures, and Koch-funded groups like PERC, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and many others openly calling for the end of government land ownership, the concept of public land, national parks, or wilderness areas free of drilling, mining, and logging operations is in jeopardy. It is not enough for the Kochs to take Americans’ government, workplace protections, pensions, healthcare, safe roads, schools, and bridges to privatization and eventual ruin, they are jockeying even now to take over Americans’ public land with little to no outrage or push-back from the people.