The Curtain Is Lifting on Public Land Seizure

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The fact that public land seizure bills were seriously considered in this year’s Colorado Assembly perplexed many Coloradans, us among them. Why would legislators in the state of Colorado, home of the Maroon Bells, Dinosaur National Monument, and Pike’s Peak join the movement to fence off our public lands and potentially open them up to private development?

As previously detailed, in 2015 we saw a series of bills that, if passed, would have threatened our access to our natural inheritance by transferring them to state control, and state lands are closed to public access.

This just doesn’t add up, right? A state that has a proud outdoor heritage and lucrative tourism and recreation economies would seem to have little reason to jeopardize the quality of its public lands.

The answer is that public land seizure is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


Through some creative PR maneuvering, public land seizure proponents have managed to establish a false premise. They paint the issue as one about states’ rights and have even said that they are in fact trying to preserve the environment by seizing what they characterize as badly mismanaged public lands.

SB 232, which would have wasted time and local taxpayers’ dollars to study public land seizure (which other states have already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars to do), was continuously sold as an innocuous initiative to “see if this was a good idea.”

SB 39, which would have begun the seizure process, was marketed as “coordination” between local and federal agencies to allegedly protect against wildfires.

Unfortunately for this spin-doctoring enterprise, the wolf is gnawing its way out of its sheep costume.

Public land seizure has never been about anything but private profit at the public’s expense, and this is becoming increasingly evident as its advocates, sometimes unwittingly, make their aims clear.

Take, for example, the Colorado Senate GOP’s recent tweet urging more extraction on public lands. Or consider Presidential candidate Rand Paul’s recent admonition to make public land available for private development, in a nod to infamous scofflaw, freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy’s self-serving anti-government ideology.

These instances reveal in sharp relief what has been true all along; the out-of-state special interests pushing public land seizure intend to lock us out of our lands and sell them off or otherwise reserve them for private development, including extractive industries.

This is about making private profit off our public lands and nothing else.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.18.43 PM

To add insult to injury, these wolves in sheep’s clothing are hoodwinking not just state legislators, but county commissioners who are spending taxpayer money on this costly, wasteful idea.

Three Colorado counties (Mesa, Montrose, & Montezuma) have already spent thousands of their taxpayers’ dollars to become members of the American Lands Council — the Utah-based lobbying group devoted to spreading the public land seizure agenda  —  that’s now being charged with fraud and corruption.

But even if public land seizure were implemented, these counties and all of Colorado — especially rural and Western Slope communities — would suffer greatly from the shock to our tourism and recreation economies and the massive costs of management and wildfires.

Instead, these county commissioners and some state legislators are gullibly being led on a fool’s errand, wasting time and taxpayer resources instead of tackling the very real problems that face rural communities such as economic diversification.

Either our elected officials in Colorado are getting played by the slick messaging of these snake-oil salesmen, or they’re trying to play us. Regardless, we need to stand up and say enough is enough, take your hands off our public lands!

9 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Progressicat says:

    Well, the land sure as hell ain't paying for me to get elected!
    – Anonymous American Lands Council Member

  2. Let's face it: the EPA was created because state governments weren't able to effectively stand up to private interests. (It can be argued that the Federal government isn't exactly up to the task, either, but they do manage to punish a number of offenders that the states can't seem to touch…)

    Modern Federal lands – that is, our National Parks, Monuments, Refuges, Seashores, Recreation Areas, Scenic Rivers, etc. – management laws are largely born from a similar thought process: to protect valuable lands that the states have not protected.

    Any attempt to move lands back to state control is almost certainly a disguised attempt to privatize the lands to the hands of the rich and powerful. No-one in their right mind actually thinks that any state has the funds to properly manage all of the Federal lands within their state. Colorado has a hard enough time managing its state park lands given its budget constraints.

    To me, at least, this wolf never had more than a few ratty patches of wool taped on as camouflage in the first place.

  3. Big Time says:

    Don't forget who the Kochs, et al use as shock troops – the Cliven Bundy's and his militia, the Oregon miner the gun nutz flocked to, to "defend" him from a "tyrannical" government, the same types in New Mexico. 

    The Colorado GOP is going to try to roll back the 15 round limit on ammunition magazines to either a 30 round max or unlimited. Why?

    Who the hell thinks average citiznes really need these things? Why does the GOP want people to be armed with that kind of firepower?

    Bundy's militia got the government to back down because they had so many kooks out there with high powered semi auto rifles and 30+ round clips. 

    The "Northern Colorado Secesstionists" and their “Constitutional” sheriffs probably also pine for a similar show down. 

    It goes beyond just opening up oil and gas, mineral and ag rights on public lads, with water resources becoming a larger issue as we head into a world of increasing climate change, drought and unstable availability, do we really want to allow every last citizen to have their own personal arms cache such that they can form their own militia and take on the U.S. government?

    Food for thought. 


    • mamajama55 says:

      Big, You're  right that the secessionists – the social issue extremists, the gunheads, the Bundys, the bigots – are being used as shock troops by moneyed interests (Kochs, among others) trying to drill and exploit public lands. I want to remind you that these groups are not monolithic, and that strategically, we as environmentalists and progressives should exploit the divisions between the factions.

      In Colorado, the Rocky Mtn Gun Owners are the backers of no limits on the magazines. They do not have universal support among GOP legislators, mostly because of Dudley Brown's bullying tactics and personality. The pragmatists – Republicans who want a win, were ready to comporomise on a 30 round clip. I wouldn't want Dems to back down without a fight on that one, but if we had to lose one, that's not the hill I would choose to die on either. So to speak. I'd want to hold the line on background checks and not selling guns to felons or domestic abusers. And yes, no system is foolproof.

      But the public lands issue – we are well and truly screwed if we let Tipton, Gardner, Buck, Lamborn, and the rest of Colorado's "Conservatives"sell us out there , with their deceptively  named bills that give oil and gas interests a free pass on exploring and drilling our Colorado treasures.

      It goes beyond just opening up oil and gas, mineral and ag rights on public lands, with water resources becoming a larger issue as we head into a world of increasing climate change, drought and unstable availability, do we really want to allow every last citizen to have their own personal arms cache such that they can form their own militia and take on the U.S. government?

      Food for thought. 

      Food for thought, indeed. I'm saying that we should let the GOP caucus fight among themselves over guns and social issues, as they have just shown they can do so well in the OutHouse scandal, and keep our eyes on the money, and the long term survival of our species in the natural world.

      If the establishment Rs think that they can "ride the tiger" and use their rowdy, well-armed, bigoted base for profit , they will have a surprise coming. Remember how quickly all the Fox commentators and right wing pundits had to back away from Bundy's pronouncements on how well he knows "the Negro"? These people are embarrassing and dangerous to the Republican establishment – and that's another division we can use.

      • Big Time says:

        Thanks MJ55, I agree with all that you say, but I feel Dems should fight for the 15 round limit – in my heart of hearts that should be a 7 round limit. The fact is, the more rounds you can fire w/o needing to reload, the more life you can take – that is just a fact. There are many examples of shooters having to reload and that is when they are stopped, or people flee to safety.

        I say make the GOP defend against those facts, and bring their kooks out of the woodwork to explain what exactly they need 30+ rounds for – let the discussion turn to Cliven Bundy and the wisdom of allowing any yahoo the access to military grade weapons. 

        And Dems shouldn't stop there – they should ask for a gun violence restraining order. That is a policy that allows friends and family to contact authorities should a person be a threat to themselves or others and who has access to a gun – authorities can take guns for a period of time. Calif passed it after the Santa Barbara shooting. It very well could have allowed authorities to take the Aurora shooters arsenal before he had the chance to use it. 

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        As an FYI, Gardner was the only Western Republican senator to vote against the notorious, but fortunately non-binding, Senate resolution a few months ago, by Senator Murkowski, that called for state takeover of the federal lands. 

        • Duke Cox says:

          If so, that would be the first thing I recall him having done that I find commendable. On the other hand, knowing Cory as I do, I wouldn't be surprised if there were an ulterior motive for his no vote.

          Perhaps that bill didn't sufficiently favor his BFFs, Chuck and Dave.

  4. Duke Cox says:

    BTW…does anyone recognize the place in the top photo (with the two humans in it). I think I would like to go stand there myself….

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