You’ve probably heard the sales pitch by now: Idaho won’t be whole until it seizes control of its federal lands. As Better Idaho (among many, many others) has made perfectly clear, the transfer of public lands is the tea party’s worst idea right behind secession.
With that in mind, let’s just call it Secession Lite.
So who’s behind this ill-fated movement? So far it’s the fringe of the Republican Party. On Tuesday, Aug. 25, failed gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher will host a fundraiser at his house to fight against the middle-class and the public lands that define us as Westerners.
The fundraiser, which is falsely billed as a discussion about “better access, better management, and a brighter future for our children,” purports to feature three so-called “special guests.”
Here they are:
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik (center)
Chmelik has made a career of Secession Lite. He ran for Lt. Governor on the singular plank of land transfer. Now he’s pushing his new group, the Western Landmark Foundation (WLF). Chmelik started the organization shortly after it became public that the leader of Utah’s Secession Lite movement was paying himself $95,000 a year as head of the American Lands Council.
The meeting at Fulcher’s house is a fundraiser for the WLF, an organization created to sue the American people out of our public lands. That’s going to be an expensive endeavor considering it’s unconstitutional. Chmelik knows this. That’s why he’s glad-handing at Fulcher’s house in hopes of getting the attention of deep pockets. Really deep pockets. Then, cha-ching!
As reported in the Mohave Valley Daily News:
“(Jim Chmelik) said petroleum executives Charles and David Koch are also interested in the state land transfer efforts, possibly contributing millions of dollars.”
Sec. of State Lawerence Denney (cancelled)
Denney has a long history of coveting land that belongs to the citizens of the United States. Before being elected as Secretary of State, he was the co-chair of a legislative committee that secretly hired a lawyer to study the validity of suing the American people out of our public lands. Two years and more than $100,000 later, the committee concluded the idea was a fool’s errand.
He was supposed to be a “special guest” at the fundraiser, but apparently his experiences on the committee taught him that Secession Lite is a waste of time and money. At least we hope so. He cited a scheduling conflict for his absence.
Rep. Raul Labrador (left)
Rep. Labrador used to dismiss Secession Lite, favoring his legislation titled “Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act.” However, it seems like those days are over. Now, as Sen. Rand Paul’s western campaign chairman, Labrador has to heel at the feet of Paul who said last month, in the presence of the criminal Cliven Bundy (right photo, on left):
“You run into problems now with the federal government being, you know, this bully — this big huge government bully. You would have less of that if you had more local ownership of the land. State ownership would be better, but even better would be private ownership.”
Goodbye Community Lands Act, hello Secession Lite.
The Fulcher fundraiser
Perhaps nothing is more telling about the Secession Lite movement than the way they talk about public lands. Don’t forget, the special guests at Tuesday’s fundraiser are politicians. If these folks really wanted to understand public lands, the special guests should be resource specialists, scientists and professional land mangers.
No. That’s boring. It’s more fun to talk about Secession Lite.
That leads to some pretty basic misunderstandings about our public lands. Take the Facebook cover photo for the Jim Chmelik fundraiser above. On the left is a deciduous forest that flourishes back east. On the right in a coniferous forest, which is the type of forest we have in Idaho. Eastern forests are much wetter than western forests. Consequently, they burn much less than western forests.
If the message here is, “We want Idaho to be just like the East,” it’s not a surprise. Secession Lite advocates like the American Lands Council and Jim Chmelik (who’s from Maryland) are big fans of the eastern land ownership pattern.