Tuesday night was another reminder that Democrats that run centrist campaigns are doomed to failure. That too should be a wakeup call for the conservation community. Think about this for a moment: President Trump has been in office less than 150 days and with the upcoming vote on healthcare is poised to destroy once and for all the progress American enjoyed under President Obama. In just 150 days, a determined and delusional man, has managed to wreak havoc on policies both domestic and international.
By contrast Democrats continue to believe in a centrist position in an effort to regain control of the House. In the past four special elections and it is important to note they were all in heavily Republican turf, with the exception of Montana, this effort did not succeed. Republicans in these races were unabashedly themselves, raging against liberalism, fighting the government, making environmental and government regulations part of a job killing machine and continued to say Obamacare was dying. In so doing they created a ghoulish vision for the future, one that their admirers support. By contrast, Democrats made clear they would work with these Republicans, agreed in less government, attacked the Republican Health care proposals, attacked Trump selectively but said they wanted a strong military. By this process they left out a clear vision for the future. Guess who won?
The conservation community should also take heed of the situation and begin to aggressively fight back and deploy new means of messaging. They should stop trying to please everyone all the time. You come off as Democrats did, unprincipled. During his reelection campaign before he was picked to be Interior Secretary, the former Boy Scout, Ryan Zinke pledged to support our public lands and fought off suggestions that he would allow the selling off of public lands. After riding in to the Interior building on horse his first day, (his Teddy Roosevelt moment) he has spent the past months working to undermine all public lands and policies. He sees, as all former Republican Interior Secretaries after 1980 have, no place which should not be open to drilling and will push to make America the number one energy producer. To do this he has opened the Gulf, and is aggressively moving to open the east coast and Alaskan waters to more drilling. He has the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge well within his sights for drilling. The West is ground zero for extensive fracking and is one reason Zinke has pushed to shrink the boundaries of Bear Ears National Monument, and will do with other Monuments, so that the new borders can be rig filled.
Now we are learning of an even more sinister plot, the possible appointment of Karen Budd-Falen to be the new head of the Bureau of Land Management. In a perfect Steve Bannon move to destroy any semblance of respecting the role of government and the importance of our public lands, Republicans are once again intent on placing a wolf in the hen house.
Karen Budd-Falen has spent her life trying to undermine and destroy public lands. As a Wyoming lawyer, she has showered sympathy to people like the Bundy Family who famously took up arms against federal authorities and took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. In the 1990’s she drafted Catron Counties land use plan that declared the Federal Government subservient to the counties plans to “log, graze and not regulate other uses”. The book she wrote based on this became a guiding light for fringe groups eager to undermine federal authority.
Budd-Falen’s has aggressively pushed for a “transfer” of National Forests and other public lands. She also feels strongly that government employees who fail to cooperate with counties should be arrested. In 2007, she represented a Wyoming rancher who tried to sue the BLM under federal racketeering laws for preforming their jobs. Her goal was to expose federal employees to serial litigation. The case went to the Supreme Court where she lost.
So once again we see a party and a President moving forward not with a consensus choice, but someone on the radical fringe that will move to lay off employees, destroy protections for federal lands and move aggressively to fan the flames of anti-government hate and rage, while pushing to sell off public lands and transfer control to state and local ownership. By making this decision, Republicans see it as authentic.
Democrats and the conservation community can no longer try and please everyone, for the sake of the planet we must fight back with aggressive tactics. We must replace Western Republicans that continue to try and destroy our most important resource. Forget eastern urban races, we must put money into our own back yard.
There should be a Public Lands tour of the east and the rust belt to educate the public about what our public lands mean and why everyone should be investing in their protection. We must speak with truth and understand that ranchers and others are not going to love us or respect us. We must make clear that these lands are owned by all Americans and ranchers and other extractors, are merely renters and must create polices move more aggressively than ever to rid our public lands of their menace, we must have a 21st Century Protect our West agenda!
America has made a terrible choice with this President, but as he continues to be mired in investigation, like a drowning man he will swing and kick and try to create as much harm as he can to stay afloat. He will offer more and more to hold on to the support of those on the radical right as his ship sinks.
We must fight back with tough rhetoric and aggressive moves not designed to please the masses, but designed to rise above the ignorance pool and save our lands and wildlife from the insanity we now face.
These are our lands, they remain the home of wolves and bears, geese and prairie dogs, these lands are filled with high mountain lakes, dense forests and massive, transformational deserts.
They are the soul of our nation and the hope for a better future, but to save them we must speak with heart and determination, we must fight for that which is ours. We must not be afraid of who we are and always be reminded of the justice of our cause. This land is our land, never forget it.
Special credit: to Greg Zimmerman and Westwise for some of the content on Karen Budd-Falen.