The Land Grab Mafia

100dollarsThe Bosses

#1: The Koch brothers

A few fun facts about Charles and David Koch:

  1. They are the proud owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately run business in America, which owns oil refineries in Texas, Alaska, and Minnesota and control some 4,000 miles of pipeline.
  2. Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires like the Kochs and large corporations like theirs can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process.
  3. According to Forbes, the Koch brothers are now worth $80 billion, an increase of a measly $12B since last year.
  4. They are among the largest funders of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Americans Land Council (ALC), the two most organized, well funded proponents of transferring public lands to the state for eventual liquidation

 

#2: Ken Ivory

A few brass tacks on ol’ Kenny:

  1. He’s the former CEO of the “non-profit” American Lands Council (ALC) who pulled a $135k salary in 2014 and resigned his post to later mentioned wannna be land grabber, and Montana politician, Jennifer Fielder, amid allegations of fraud and intentionally violating lobbying and disclosure laws.
  2. While at the helm of the ALC Ivory conned several county and state governments into “donating” tax payer money to fund the ALC’s attack on public lands.
  3. He’s currently the Director of the “Free The Lands” Project with Federalism In Action.
  4. He hails from the leader in land theft and privatization of public lands, and arguably the most bass ackwards state politically in our great country, Utah.

 

#3: Jennifer Fielder

Some scoop on Jen:

  1. She’s the new head honcho of the American Lands Council (ALC), having taken the reins from Ken Ivory.
  2. Fielder is Vice Chair of the Montana Republican Party, a party that includes the transfer of public lands in its official party platform.
  3. She’s received a glowing, formal endorsement from the Oath Keepers, one of the whacko militant groups at the heart of the Malheur Refuge occupation, and she has been posting recently on the ALC website in defense of the recent Oregon occupation.
  4. She’s a member of the Sanders Natural Resource Council, which is run by the Militia of Montana (yes, that’s their actual name), founded by John Trochmann, of white supremacist fame.

 

#4. Political Candidates with Strings

Some facts:

  1. Ted Cruz has received campaign contributions from the Koch Brothers and many have called him out as a Koch puppet. A Ted Cruz puppet?  That’ll keep your kids up at night…and me.  He is “vigorously committed to transferring as much federal land as humanly possible back to the states.”  His words.  Back in July of ’15 he proposed this asinine amendment to the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Cruz Amendment #3456: Limit Federal Ownership of State Lands: Prevents the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of the land in any state. I guess he didn’t realize that we the people own the land. Federal agencies manage it, not own it.
  2. Marco Rubio has this to say, “The federal government controls far too much land, especially in the Western states like Nevada. While there is clearly a legitimate role for federally owned and managed land in certain situations, we must empower states and tribes whenever appropriate. I believe we should institute a top-down review of all federal property, including land, to help determine what should stay in the federal government’s purview and what should be returned back to states and localities.”
  3. Advocating for land transfer and private ownership of federally managed land is in the GOP platform  See pages 18 & 19 on the attached.
  4. See here for breakdown on where each of the political candidates stand on public lands.  All candidates were given the same questions and time to respond.

 

Connecting the dots:

So if it isn’t already clear, the winners in a land transfer scenario are those with a vested interest in the eventual sale or monetization through private lease of said lands.  The states cannot afford to manage the lands, so if they were ever to be transferred to state ownership, not only would our previous rights as owners of those lands be null and void under new ownership, the lands would instantly become assets available to the highest bidder.  You would be hard pressed to find an economist that would argue otherwise.

Guys like the Koch brothers aren’t interested in bringing public land users together to hold hands and sing around a warm campfire. They have no interest in, or expectation of, better management of lands under state control. As Sean Combs would say, “It’s all about the benjamins baby” and there isn’t much money to be made by private interests when lands are managed for the greatest public benefit, be that by federal or state agencies.

You probably noticed that I didn’t mention the Bundys or any other penny ante thieves among the key players. Intentional omission. The Bundys and other fringe extremists like them are nothing more than convenient distractions.  They are the grunts, pushers, fall guys. Bosses don’t look or act like these goofs.  Let’s looks into a dark crystal ball and envision that our public land was transferred to state ownership and then sold off to say the Koch brothers for example.  Do you see them letting degenerate ranchers like papa Cliven and sonny boy Ammon use it for free, or are they drilling it, fracking it, making money?  If the Kochs have any delinquent tenants in their current business dealings who are over a year in arrears to the tune of over $1 million, like we do in the Bundys, they’re litigating and seizing assets.

Do some research and see if your local or state politicians are somehow connected to this organized crime.  You might find that some of your tax dollars have already been funneled off to fund efforts to steal your public lands or that a candidate you’re considering voting for is on the wrong side of this issue.

Pro land transfer = NO VOTE.  Write to them and tell them that.

 

 

State Trust Land is NOT Public Land

state trust land signLast week Governor Doug Ducey exercised common sense by directing Land Commissioner Lisa Atkins and state Sen. Steve Smith to reconsider an earlier interpretation of a rule that prohibited the leaving of foreign objects behind on State Trust land.  Roughly two years ago the State Land Department started enforcing geocaching through the lens of that rule, a decision Ducey called, “pointless”.   Agreed.

Whoopty Doo.  How magnanimous of them to allow Arizonans to participate in a harmless, healthy activity on state land.  More important than this non-news, is the crystal clear picture of the differences between State Trust Land and federally managed public land that this example paints for us.  It also foreshadows what we should expect if our public lands are transferred to the state – restricted or outright loss of access.

Right now a federal (read PUBLIC, how clever of them…) lands transfer study committee appointed by Gov. Ducey and led by Rep. Brenda Barton is working hard on a propaganda campaign to convince the general public that transfer of public lands, owned by all of us, held in public trust and managed by federal agencies, to the state of Arizona is a good idea.  They are going to tell us that the state can manage it better than the federal agencies and so on and so forth.  Don’t take the bait.  Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never the answer.  Once title is given to the state, our collective voice will be forever muted.  We should be urging our state and federal politicians to work on solutions to the real problem – the lack of adequate funding of the federal agencies.

This has always been a set up.  Pro-transfer politicians starve the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.  Those agencies struggle.  Pro-transfer politicians point and say, “see they can’t do the job”.  Let’s transfer those lands to the state.  Now they know the state can’t manage them for the same reason the federal agencies can’t manage them – money.  So what happens next?  You guessed it – monetize them.  Multi-use management?  Nope.  Not anymore.

I published this list in a slightly different order in a previous article but it bears repeating here:

  1. State Trust Land is NOT public land. The rules are different. Camping, hunting, mountain biking, target shooting – activities allowed on America’s public lands are either off limits or severely restricted on State Trust Land. Sale is also restricted on America’s public lands. State Trust Land can be liquidated by the state to “benefit the public school system” or more likely to continue the pocket lining of state politicians.
  2. State trust land exists for one reason, to create the highest economic benefit for the public school system. Public lands are managed by federal agencies for multi-use – that includes both public recreation and resource extraction. Here is the first sentence of the Arizona State Land Department’s mission statement, “To Manage State Trust lands and resources to enhance value and optimize economic return for the Trust beneficiaries, consistent with sound business management principles, prudent stewardship, and conservation needs supporting socio-economic goals for citizens here today and future generations. “
  3. Pro public land sale politicians and citizens have no expectation of these lands remaining open to the general public. Well, unless they are barren of resources and devoid of benefit to private business. If feasible, they will be leased, mined, or sold. Gates locked and access to me and you lost forever.
  4. States cannot afford to manage these lands. The cost of fire suppression alone would bankrupt State Trust Land departments. Again, the pro land sale sect understands this math and intends to use it later as rationale for the eventual sale and privatization of these lands.
  5. The states never owned these lands. Each state, at statehood, was given parcels of land by the federal government. The states never owned the land within their boundaries. The remainder of land is held in the public trust and managed by federal agencies. It belongs to all of us. See the State Trust Land’s website here https://land.az.gov/ for more information.

Please write our politicians, get involved, speak up.  The consequences of standing on the sidelines are dire and irreversible.

Public Land Thieves Coming to Arizona Next?

ammon and lavoy

Two primary figures in the recent armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon drove over from Arizona. Ammon Bundy, car fleet manager from Phoenix, AZ and unfortunately recently deceased LaVoy Finicum, Mormon rancher and father of 11 from Colorado City, AZ, wanted one thing, to steal public land that belongs to you and me. They shouted America and liberty and federal government and carried around the stars and stripes, and many in our meme and sound bite consuming society took the bait. You might say to yourself, “These are hard working, blue collar Americans standing up to the big, bad, incompetent federal government, right?” That might be what you’re hearing in your Facebook echo chamber, but nope, it is not the case at all folks.

Ranchers as a lot are hard working Americans, representative of the work ethic and grit that helped build this country, and the majority is not on board. Stacy Davies, the general manager of Roaring Springs ranches in Diamond OR, and also the marketing director of Country Natural Beef, a co-op of family ranches, had this to say, “We don’t support unlawful activity from people representing the ranching community. On behalf of Congressman Walden, I went to the refuge on that Monday morning and asked Ammon (Bundy) to leave.”

These wing bats are felons and would be thieves. They had a sweetheart deal going with us too but wanted more. They wanted the general public to subsidize their private business by letting them graze for free and if we didn’t, then screw us; they’ll just take the land by force. The lease rates private interests pay to graze cattle on public land managed by federal agencies is a modicum of what they’d have to pay a private owner to graze on similar land. This isn’t just the case in Oregon either; it’s the same all over the western United States. This was an act of greed and entitlement, plain and simple.

“Federal” has become a dirty word, especially here in Arizona. Our state is a hot bed of anti-federal government sentiment and would very likely be a coddling, cozy place for the extremists to set up shop next. You’ve either already heard, or will soon, ideas like “giving federal land back to the state”, “Arizona can manage it better than the feds”, “if the states own it your accesses won’t change”. It’s all a bunch of hooey. These lands belong to the American people, all of us.  The federal government is the manager. Proponents of privatizing America’s public lands see the current political climate as an opening and they’re trying to run through it like a running back who smells the goal line. Last April Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2658 which established a committee to study the feasibility of a public lands transfer. The committee isn’t studying the feasibility. They are putting together a propaganda campaign and strategizing how to get a land transfer bill passed.

This movement is not American. It’s a greed driven attempt by a few to steal from the many, and please do not make the mistake of marginalizing it.   This is an organized, well-funded, and on-going attempt to fleece the American public. Groups like the Bundy led occupants are attached to strings controlled by wealthy, entitled businessmen and politicians. Puppet masters who could care less about ranchers or the blue collar Americans they purport to represent dangle them out in front of cameras as a diversion. Pseudo-foundations like the American’s Land Council, led by CEO and elected Utah House Representative Ken Ivory receive “donations” from state and local governments to work on public land transfer legislation. These checks are written with our tax dollars. Connect those dots. Your tax dollars are being funneled to an organization that’s attempting to steal your land. How would you react if they slid someone a fifty to break into your house and grab your flat screen? Groups like the ALC also receive funding from private businesses giddy over the profit potential public land sales represent. Not hard to connect those dots.

Let’s imagine together that a parcel of sacred Native American land like Oak Flat or primo elk and deer habitat has valuable resources below it. This beautiful piece of what used to be public land, owned by all of us and managed for our mutual benefit has recently been sold to the state of Arizona. What do you think Senator McCain or Governor Ducey would vote to do with it?

I will not stand ideally by while my children’s birthright and legacy of public lands is sold off to benefit the greedy and entitled. This is not the America I want to leave for my daughters and their kids. How about you?

Here are some key facts for your edification and use:

  1. The states never owned these lands. Each state, at statehood, was given parcels of land by the federal government. The states never owned the land within their boundaries. The remainder of land is held in the public trust and managed by federal agencies. It belongs to all of us. See the State Trust Land’s website here https://land.az.gov/ for more information.
  2. State trust land exists for one reason, to create the highest economic benefit for the public school system. Public lands are managed by federal agencies for multi-use – that includes both public recreation and resource extraction. Here is the first sentence of the Arizona State Land Department’s mission statement, “To Manage State Trust lands and resources to enhance value and optimize economic return for the Trust beneficiaries, consistent with sound business management principles, prudent stewardship, and conservation needs supporting socio-economic goals for citizens here today and future generations. “
  3. State Trust Land is NOT public land. The rules are different. Camping, hunting, mountain biking, target shooting – activities allowed on America’s public lands are either off limits or severely restricted on State Trust Land. Sale is also restricted on America’s public lands. State Trust Land can be liquated by the state to “benefit the public school system” or more likely to continue the pocket lining of state politicians.
  4. States cannot afford to manage these lands. The cost of fire suppression alone would bankrupt State Trust Land departments. Again, the pro land sale sect understands this math and intends to use it later as rationale for the eventual sale and privatization of these lands.
  5. Pro public land sale politicians and citizens have no expectation of these lands remaining open to the general public. Well, unless they are barren of resources and devoid of benefit to private business. If feasible, they will be leased, mined, or sold. Gates locked and access to me and you lost forever.