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I’m With Stupid – August 12, 2016

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallWhen you ponder what it means to be an American and what lies at the heart of American exceptionalism, what do you think about? Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie? That might explain our obesity problem.

No, but seriously, all cliches aside, what you really think about is spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty and fruited plains. I know I think about amber waves and fruited plains all the time.

That’s what truly binds us as a nation and has always been at the heart of our success. Location, location, location. Our forefathers bought, stole and usurped the best real estate on the planet. Like, if you were a human, and you got to choose the first lot in a new development called Earth, you would totally choose where the United States is today.

So never forget that that’s your birthright, Americans. All of that extra land that Jefferson bought from France when he purchased Louisiana in 1803, everything we laid claim to when we signed the Oregon Treaty with Britain in 1846, all of the acreage ceded to us by Mexico after we kicked their butts in 1848 — that all belonged to you.

Now, over the years, much of your land has been taken over by states, counties, towns and private interests, but between the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and various other federal agencies, you still own about 640 million acres of land — not as a resident of any state but specifically as an American.

That means that if you live in, say, Connecticut or Florida, you have just as much claim to the BLM land where I walk my dogs here in Colorado as I do. And I, as a Coloradan, have an equal stake in the Everglades and a handful of forests in Florida and a tiny little wildlife refuge in Connecticut.

But there’s something you should know about your land, Americans: Some states and a bunch of jackasses named Bundy are trying to take it from you, and congressional Republicans are trying to let them.

In fact, the recently released Republican National Committee platform actually says, in part, “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states.”

What they’re saying, essentially, is that they want you to give your land away to states for free. But why would you do that? In my opinion, you absolutely should not hand over any of it, but if you’re going to, you should at least get paid for it. Those 640 million acres, even if priced at the lowest average rate from a 2015 study (farmland, at $2,000 per acre), is worth about $1.3 trillion.

Sure, that’s less than one-tenth of our national debt, but it ain’t chump change. That’s a lot of money. You can’t just give all that away. If states are serious about taking over control of certain federally controlled public lands, they should have to buy them. And they shouldn’t get a preferred rate, either. They should have to outbid hedge-fund billionaires, Russian oligarchs and Saudi royalty for those lands.

It’s like the old cliche says: “If you’re going to sell the family cow, you need to milk it for all its worth first and then make sure you get more than a handful of beans for payment, Jack.”

That’s what the old cliche says, right?

But anyway, that’s what the states are offering and what Republicans think is acceptable: a handful of beans. Actually, they’re not even offering that much. What Republicans really want to sell our land for is a fistful of nothing. I’m not a great negotiator, but I think even I could probably get America a better deal than that.

There may be some scenarios where state control over federally controlled lands might be a good idea, but these should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and not by a sweeping edict of the Republican Party that favors the states in every instance.

Let states show beforehand that they can adequately manage the land and afford it protection from development equal to or greater than the protection it receives under federal control, and then let the states put their money where their mouths are, and only then (some might say not even then) should we think of parting with our BLM and national forest lands — not to mention our purple mountains, amber waves and fruited plains.

Todd Hartley once waved at a girl named Amber. Amber didn’t wave back.

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