by Justin Robbins
Recently, the ironically named Helena Independent Record (IR) ran an article claiming Congressional candidate Denise Juneau had unfairly attacked Ryan Zinke about what she phrased as his vote to “allow the transfer of Montana’s public land.” The paper concluded her charge is off the mark, because the bill in question, Idaho Representative Raúl Labrador’s Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act, only calls for appointed committees to evaluate uses for public lands, with an eye toward production.
Rather than imply that a paragon of journalistic integrity such as the IR might be biased, or lazy, allow me to instead explain why they are flat wrong. Their article notes Montana Conservation Voters Program Director Neal Ullman suspects a connection between recent land bills like Labrador’s and others from the likes of House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Utah’s Rob Bishop, or Montana State Senator and bizarrely simultaneous American Land’s Council CEO, Jennifer Fielder. There is, Neal: The Mormon Church.
As I too softly implied here, then later illuminated here, the corporate machine that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has long been applying the tithings of its adherents to the accumulation of land. From a link included in my previous cowgirl post (again here):
“Herring also details how the Mormon church already owns 235,000 acres of Utah, and 678,000 acres (2% of the land) in Florida; they also have about 250,000 acres of Nebraska.”
They have so much land, in fact, that they are building a city in Florida. If you haven’t yet, now would be a great time to follow the links to the Wikipedia biographies of Mr. Labrador and Mr. Bishop; both belong to the Mormon Church. Utah Representative Ken Ivory, who handed the reins of the American Lands Council to Montana’s Fielder, is also a Mormon. Fielder’s biography claims Christian; but with over 4,400 active denominations, perhaps a tactless wager is in order.
Then again, tactless may be too harsh a word. After all, the country’s top Republican, the leader of the party of Labrador, Bishop, Ivory, Fielder and Zinke, is openly advocating religious tests, and disqualifying federal judges because they resemble an ethnicity he hopes to oppress. Dare they claim privilege from the same treatment?
In summary, it must be admitted that Labrador’s bill does not directly call for the privatization of public lands. It instead calls for an appointed committee to look at transfer of land management with an emphasis on production. Not conservation. Not recreation.
It calls for a deck stacked with like minded folks deciding who gets to fence off which formerly public lands and cut timber, dig mines, farm, ranch and maybe develop a city. Does anyone get the impression the American Lands Council is out to maintain and preserve hiking, fishing, hunting and other recreational capacities of our lands?
Denise Juneau correctly observed that Ryan Zinke’s actions have endangered our public lands. From backing Labrador’s obvious agenda, to abdicating the delegate status which would allow him to fight for public lands, he has effective cleared the way for the well-placed tentacles of the Mormon church to continue unfettered acquisition of our public lands.
It’s a pretty simple formula, really. Create a bogey man like the Federal Government. Gin up fears about overreach (they’re using your tax dollars to kill babies and melt down your guns), while you get the right people holding the right strings and pass dog whistle legislation to start greasing the slope.
Yes, Mr. Ullman, there’s a connection; and no, Ms. Juneau did not miss the mark.