I sometimes grow frustrated when trying to characterize this nefarious, illogical and seemingly amorphous effort to steal and/or degrade our federal public lands (. And it is confusing. But maybe we need to look at it in terms of the familiar to truly understand it and broaden the public’s grasp of the situation. With more than 100 million watching Super Bowl 50 in February, perhaps casting this effort it in terms of elements of the National Football League (NFL) might be a good place to start and would make it accessible to more.
Part of my thinking here also stems from the level and character of public discourse about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell related to his salary and antics. Why can’t we get folks as charged up about this public lands thievery as we do about aspects of Mr. Goodell’s management of this football league? It certainly cannot be because the owners and directors of this campaign to take away or ruin our public asset are paid less that Mr. Goodell or are any less rich than the NFL owners. In fact, Mr. Goodell’s take of roughly $43 million annually pales when compared to Koch Brothers recent annual return of $6 billion dollars each. And it cannot be the respective public interest as these public lands are visited by nearly 200 million people annually which is certainly on a level with the NFL. Maybe it is just a matter of marketing and packaging?
So what if we just couch all these public land assaults as a “league?” My vote would be that we call it the Anti-Federal Lands League or AFLL for short. This is works well because it can be easily said and remembered as the acronym can be simplified in license-plate speak as: Awful. Need conferences too to make this more real? What if we were to identify AFLL conferences based upon how they want to impact these federal lands? Those entities (i.e., teams) that just want 320 million folks to sign over their legal rights to these lands (i.e., steal); why don’t we call them the Grabbing Land Conference (GLC)? And those who just want to swoop in and take what they want and leave the rest of us with the resultant messes; we could call them the Degrading Lands Conference (DLC).
And what would a league or these conferences be without snappy team names? The Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC (1,2,3,4) does not have that much appeal and leaves no room for mascots, so why not rename them the Virginia Viruses which makes them much more menacing and is more reflective of their true function in the political world? The two other Koch-inspired entities in play, Americans for Property and Federalism in Action, could easily become the Green Apple Trotters and the Jumping Judas Goats for the style and delivery of their products or for leading citizens effectively away from their own self-interests respectively.
Just so we are not just picking on the Kochs, what about renaming Richards Berman’s (1,2,3) family of deceit-based attacks on federal lands (1,2,3) and those who would protect our precious assets (see video at end of piece) the K Street Night Crawlers which captures so much about who and what they are? We also should think about a name for the mostly free-agent driven Bundy crowd—which recently lost a good portion of its starting line-up—perhaps they should be called the Deseret Dreamers (1,2.3)? And even though their “quarterback” Ken Ivory (1,2,3) was recently traded to the Judas Goats (1) for an undisclosed amount we cannot forget financier Bert Smith‘s bankrolled American Lands Council (1,2,3) that given their casual pilfering of certain public coffers (1,2,3) could safely be called the Galloping County Clippers.
And cheerleaders? Boy do we have cheerleaders in this horde. First we have the creative Constitutionalists such as KrisAnne Hall (1,2,3), George Wentz (1,2,3), Todd McFarlane (1,2), and the ghosts of W. Cleon Skousen (1,2) and Ezra Taft Benson. We also have the megaphone mob that cannot seem to pass a microphone without channeling something that seems to be an unhappy but somewhat controlled combination of speaking-in-tongues and calling up their inner berserker. Here we have seen Glenn Beck (1,2) praising Skousen and the paranoid ramblings of whole host of ranters such as Pete Santilli and Gavin Seim. And then there are the AFLL legislators such as Michele Fiore (1,2), Rob Bishop (1,2,3), Mike Noel, and Jennifer Fielder (1,2,3,4) who just went from un-drafted cheerleader to quarterback of the County Clippers (way to go, Jennifer!).
And in case you were wondering, this effort has super-fans too. Now when I think about super-fans I consider those pictured above but I also reflect on the quintessential super-fans of my generation which were (are) the Deadheads. These folks often gave up friends, family, relationships and jobs to follow this band wherever and whenever until the last, last concert last year. Take away the tie-die and patchouli and replace them with an assault rifle and an armored vest and you have the AFLL super fans: the Oathkeepers, III%ers and the assorted, self –anointed “patriots” dropping everything to attend the latest standoff regardless of whether or not they understand the issues or principles at stake (see Hal Herring piece).
Both the NFL and what I have characterized as the AFLL are run by very rich folks who want to make even more money. This seems in part to be the American way, but with each we have to look at the costs, the benefits, and also the risks. The NFL provides us entertainment and we (taxpayers) occasionally have to pay for a stadium, but given the level of interest in this enterprise, some public good benefit can be argued. The AFLL on the other hand seeks to take or destroy public lands enjoyed by nearly twice as many people annually as watched Super Bowl 50 and the AFLL offers us little save decreased quality of life, diminished health, and reduced recreational opportunities in return. Moreover, for the AFLL to be successful it has to pervert our political system, compromise our US Constitution, and create a population incapable of critical thought.
I am hoping that once put into a structure that more people can appreciate and grasp that action can take place and be of a proper nature. I hope that through this piece and the electronically attached materials that readers and those they share this with will recognize the extent and coordinated fashion of this attack. Additionally I hope they will understand that it is absolutely about keeping public lands public but also making sure that management of these lands reflects the needs of all the ownership not just the privileged few that enjoy subsidized and discounted access to our collective riches.
In light of the above, we should not fall prey to the specious argument offered by AFLLers (1) that the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion has to addressed with some sort of non-trivial adjustment. When we look at the essence of this underlying federal grazing situation we are really talking about making major revisions to policies and ownership because some of the roughly 20,000 public lands grazers out of 320 million federal lands owners (i.e., a part of 0.00625%) want more than just below market grazing fees. It seems fairly straightforward that we should not let this minuscule minority be used as an excuse to change federal land ownership or as anything approaching logical leverage to dilute needed environmental protections. In reality, the advocates of this position have simply painted a crack on the surface of a solid dam in hopes that we are imprudent enough to open the flood-gates.
Now I fully understand that folks have issues with the NFL—and I agree that Roger Goodell likely makes too much and I do not understand why this entity is a non-profit in the first place—but taking on the NFL while ignoring this AFLL beast seems a little like being overly bothered about what tune Nero was playing on his fiddle while Rome burned. We have bigger fish to fry and we need to get to it.
So where do you go to help and get organized? Good places to start would be with the above video put together by Richard Berman's group in their Green Decoys campaign to attack those groups he and his colleagues thought most dangerous to the effort to harm our public lands. Then I would urge people to look beyond these groups to others that are working on federal lands issues or efforts to protect the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act (including those working on climate change), the Endangered Species Act and doing so in a manner that builds bridges with the broader environmental and conservation communities. Those who work in coalitions and try to rebuild this strong center must be rewarded and encouraged if we are ever to protect these lands, repair the damage wrought by these far too greedy forces and set our collective communities back on the pathway of building and enhancing our public lands, improving our quality of life and ensuring our continuance and that of our children and grandchildren.