Ted Cruz is airing more attack ads against Donald Trump for wanting to leave public land in the federal government’s hands. Cruz is referring to this recent interview with Field & Stream, where host Anthony Licata asked Donald Trump about federal land use.
“AL: I’d like to talk about public land. Seventy percent of hunters in the West hunt on public lands managed by the federal government. Right now, there’s a lot of discussion about the federal government transferring those lands to states and the divesting of that land. Is that something you would support as President?”
“DT: I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land. And the hunters do such a great job—I mean, the hunters and the fishermen and all of the different people that use that land. So I’ve been hearing more and more about that.”
It is Ted Cruz’s position that the land should be returned to the states. It’s worth noting that Nevada’s state constitution expressly gives up the state’s rights to all “unappropriated public lands” to the federal government” so without that being changed by Nevada first, at least as far as Nevada is concerned, this is nothing more than Ted Cruz blowing smoke.
It’s also worth noting that this land would be expensive for the states to maintain and it would most likely end up being sold. “The taxpayers would then have the right to pass the land to frackers, loggers, drillers or any other private interest. Given the cost of maintaining the lands, many predicted that outcome.” The State of Utah commissioned a study and found huge expenses would be incurred. Similarly, protesters in Nevada “say a state land grab will cost Nevada $100 million a year and strip taxpayers of their public lands.” As mentioned above, this was one of Donald Trump’s concerns.
There are many willing buyers for this federal land, oil and gas companies have long sought the land. Ted Cruz’s public financial disclosure report shows that he has at least $365,000 in oil/gas company investments and Cruz has also been the beneficiary of $25 million in oil super pac money . The Koch brother’s (who have given more to Ted Cruz than any other candidate) have a group, Western Land Resources that works on their behalf. Exxonmobil, who has also given very generously to Ted Cruz’s campaign is another example, in 2011 the Exxonmobil CEO called for more federal land to be used for oil and gas.
Hence you can see the reason for Donald Trump’s concern. We are not talking about preserving individual liberty, this land has long been in federal hands and the cost to manage it has fallen to 1%. Federal taxpayers have been paying for the upkeep of this land for years and years. If this land is given back to the states and they are unable or unwilling to pay for the upkeep, the temptation to sell it combined with lobbying and campaign donations, could easily result in this land ending up in private for profit hands. Keep in mind, as was also the case with eminent domain, attack ads are only showing you one side of the story. If you are an individual who has enjoyed the use of Federal Parks for camping, fishing, hiking and hunting as we did and continue to do, it’s worth considering both sides of the story.