It seems that rural people are catching on that privatization of public lands would mostly benefit corporations and rich people. In an online presentation to the right-wing Sutherland Institute, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) advocated eliminating federal public lands and opening them up to homesteading. Lee described public lands inaccurately as “the federal government’s ‘royal forest,’” and “off limits to development of any kind.”
In fact, federal lands are open to leasing for grazing, logging, mining and oil and gas development. The public uses federal lands for recreation, hunting and fishing.
The idea of privatizing public lands through homesteading seems to have originated in a network of right-wing think tanks financed by the billionaire Koch Brothers. It was proposed in February on Free Range Report, a phony “grassroots” anti-federalist website that often published posts written by Koch-affiliated authors.
The author of the homesteading proposal is a board member of the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank best known for climate change denial.
Mike Lee often posts links to Free Range Report on his social media pages. In his proposal Lee emphasized that homesteaders were ordinary people, not corporate elites. What he didn’t mention is that the Homestead Act started a brutal land grab and displaced Native American tribes. What’s more, most homesteaders failed and their family farms have been consolidated into industrial-scale farms.
Nature Conservancy poll:
A poll taken by the Nature Conservancy in February found that Utah voters rated a number of environmental problems in Utah as “extremely” or “very” serious including lack of snow (70%), air pollution (67%), water supply (65%), drought (53%), water pollution (52%) and wildfires (50%).
Nature Conservancy Utah Voter Survey: bit.ly/2Np4m0K