*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
In normal circumstances when an anniversary arrives the farthest thing from anyone’s mind is that it may be the last, unless it is a ninety-third wedding anniversary of a couple not expected to survive another year due to a terminal disease. When a nation celebrates an anniversary, unless the country is in its death throes due to being on the brink of being overrun and conquered by a vastly superior force, one expects to continue the yearly anniversary celebrations into perpetuity. However, America is now celebrating a notable anniversary and if the Koch brothers have their way, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t, it is highly unlikely that Republicans will ever allow the nation to celebrate again.
The White House sent out a reminder this weekend that this year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and besides acknowledging the work of its employees, it encouraged Americans to “get outside and explore.” What the White House didn’t say, and the media has woefully ignored, is that Republicans in service to the Koch brothers, fossil fuel industry, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Utah Mormons are actively attempting to put an end to not only America’s national parks, wilderness areas, and monuments, but the concept of government-owned public lands.
The Koch brothers, and Utah Mormons, were long-time crusaders pushing Republicans to force the federal government to hand over all public lands to private enterprise to rape and pillage at their pleasure, and public lands was an all-inclusive term that included national parks, wilderness areas and protected environs. That greedy intent gained some publicity and only came to the fore after a Mormon rancher summoned armed militias to Nevada to wage war on federal officials doing their jobs of protecting Americans’ public lands from greedy interlopers.
The story gained a little more attention when that same Nevada Mormon rancher’s son seized federal property in another state and dared federal officials to intervene and take back the people’s land. Throughout both instances, while Republicans were resolutely defending the Mormons’ actions, they were also busy crafting legislation in Mormon Utah and Koch’s Congress to force the government to hand over ownership of public lands to the mining, oil, and logging industry to denude forests, gouge out the land, and drill for oil.
This attempt by the Kochs and Mormons to seize control of even more American land is no longer just a “Western states” issue; it is a major plank in the official Republican Party platform and very few Americans seem to care, if they are aware it’s happening at all. If any Americans didn’t think Republicans, driven by the Kochs and using ALEC template legislation, would make eliminating national parks and seizing all public lands the official position of the Republican Party at the state and federal level, the official Republican Party platform should be informative, if not infuriating. The Koch-Republican official position is:
“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey [hand over] certain federally controlled public lands to the states, call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified. The federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining or forestry through private ownership.”
In calling for an “immediate full-scale disposal” of “certain” public lands, the Koch-GOP was clever in not explicitly defining exactly which lands it would apply to so they can take all public land and hand it over to private enterprises with impunity. Obviously, the Kochs and their dirty cohort want to seize national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and national forests for their own use and profit and Republicans are ferociously doing their bidding.
If any American thinks that any and all national parks and protected areas are off limits, consider that there are already Republican attempts to force uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, and have cut National Park Service funding drastically to force corporate “sponsorship” as a means of fulfilling budget requirements. However, now that transferring public lands to private ownership is “officially” a Republican policy with pending legislation waiting for a Republican president to sign, the idea of Americans visiting national parks, like recreating on public lands and waterways, is in jeopardy of vanishing.
As an aside, there was some reporting on the GOP’s Koch-driven land grab, including Americans’ national parks, but there was also a “certain” website claiming it just wasn’t true. The website is popular for debunking myths and claimed that the GOP platform did not mention eliminating national parks unambiguously so the reports were fraudulent. That may be technically true, but it is also being extremely pedantic, embarrassingly naïve and just ignorant on its face. Anyone with an ounce of intellect knows that the GOP will never alert the public to their true intent and in this case there is more than enough evidence that when the GOP says “certain lands,” they mean any and all lands the Koch brothers and Mormons believe they can profit from.
This repulsive official position of the Koch-Republicans should be an issue Democrats seize upon to beat Republicans up and down ballot to within an inch of their pathetic political lives. Many Americans could not possibly care less that Republicans embrace Donald Trump’s bigoted and racist beliefs like a cherished religion, or that Trump is enamored with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, or that a presidential aspirant is notorious for bankrupting anything he touches, but none of those “issues” affect them personally. But what they will care about is that Republicans are taking yet another asset away from them for the sake of the wealthy few.
National Parks and wilderness areas are wildly popular among Republican and Democratic voters alike and the idea of being denied access to “their own public land” and “their own National Parks” because Utah Mormons and the Koch brothers need more wealth is a serious issue for Democratic candidates at the state, national, and local level, but only if they are savvy enough to use it. Based on not hearing a whisper about the Koch-GOP’s official intent to seize public lands, including National Parks, it is questionable if Democrats even know Americans care about and want to preserve their National Parks. Happy 100th Anniversary National Parks Service! The Koch-Republicans and Utah Mormons are working furiously to make sure it’s your last.