How have Republican presidential candidates responded to the illegal takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by extremists with an longing for violence that gone of them killed? Why, embrace them of course! The winner of the Joe McCarthy Lookalike Contest gets to be a true westerner now that the Nevada caucus is upon us:
The Cruz ad, which is launching less than a week before the Republican caucuses in Nevada, echoes the views propagated by anti-government militant Cliven Bundy, who believes that Western states should seize control of all national public lands within their borders. Cliven Bundy and his sons Ryan and Ammon were indicted this week by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas for leading armed standoffs against the federal government in 2014 in Nevada and earlier this year at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
The Cruz ad begins by criticizing the fact that approximately 85 percent of land in Nevada is publicly owned by U.S. taxpayers. These lands include the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Colorado River, Great Basin National Park, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and Basin and Range National Monument.
Cruz’s comments in the ad, which echo legislation he introduced in 2014, do not specify whether he would dispose of national public lands in Nevada by directly auctioning them off to mining, energy, timber and other private interests or by first transferring them to the control of the state government. If they were transferred to state control, the state government would likely have to sell off a large portion to raise the money needed to pay the costs of fighting wildfires and managing the remaining lands.
The militia currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge argues that the federal government’s ownership of so much land — about 28 percent of America — is costing them their economic livelihoods. They are not allowed to graze, farm, mine, or drill on a good deal of protected land. And they want to.
Rubio wants them to, too. In fact, his first promise in his presidential campaign’s energy plan is to transfer all federally-owned energy resources to the states. That way, Rubio argues, states can have more power over their own natural resources.
While that may sound reasonable, progressives argue that Rubio’s plan would essentially cause a free-for-all, where states can devastate national forests, parks, and other important wildlife and plantlife zones for temporary economic gain.
“Such a shift would give state governors unprecedented power to sell drilling and mining rights in America’s national forests, national parks, and other public lands; to waive environmental protections; and to seize revenues owed to U.S. taxpayers,” a 2015 report from the Center for American Progress reads. “Sen. Rubio’s energy plan is the latest indication that the radical idea of selling, transferring, or privatizing America’s public lands and energy resources has entered the mainstream of Republican politics.”
The only Republican candidate who has not embraced the Bundys is Trump. What’s worse is that while the Republican voters of Nevada, and certainly the rancher-types living in and outside of Winnemucca and Ely and Elko might well believe that privatizing the public lands would somehow mean prosperity for them, all it would do is create monopolies over the land by a few owners who wouldn’t allow them to graze their cattle at all, instead of the incredibly below-market rates allowed by the federal government.