Our nation’s management of parks and network of public lands are one of our finest democratic achievements. Americans see public lands as one of the things our government does best. But over the last three years politicians and special interest groups in 11 Western states have tried to seize many of these places and turn them over to state control.
The elected officials supporting state seizure of public lands couch their arguments carefully, using innocuous rhetoric to claim that their only goal is better land management. But in reality, these politicians are following directly in the ideological footsteps of Cliven Bundy, the scofflaw rancher who owes more than $1 million in grazing fees to American taxpayers and doesn’t recognize the U.S. government as “even existing.”
In this report, the Center for Western Priorities examines the extremist origins and foundations of the movement to seize American lands, many of which have not been brought to light before. We describe how public lands issues attract extremists, including members of organizations like the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. We also show that the underpinnings of the movement are well outside mainstream conservative or federalist thought.