Colorado Gubernatorial Candidate Promises To Seize And Sell America’s National Parks, Forests And Public Lands

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez talks to supporters at an election night party in Denver after he won the Republican nomination for governor.

In the first debate of the Colorado gubernatorial race last Friday, Republican nominee Bob Beauprez went on the record supporting the seizure of Colorado’s national parks, forests and public lands by the state government, saying “this is fight we have to wage.”

In a video taken by American Bridge, Beauprez, who is challenging incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper (D), claimed that all public land in the state was “supposed to be Colorado’s” and that “if this were private land and the federal government was a tenant, we would cancel their lease.”

Gov. Hickenlooper questioned how Beauprez would plan on footing the bill for such a proposal, noting that estimates show that transferring Colorado’s national parks, forests and public lands to the state would cost taxpayers at least $200 million dollars. Additional estimates of the costs of fighting wildfires on lands transferred to the state could add hundreds of millions of dollars.

Although most Western voters deeply value their public lands, Beauprez is one of several candidates supporting such proposals this election season. As ThinkProgress reported last week, there are a number of right-wing politicians across the country who have been advancing proposals to transfer of control of public lands to states, or to sell them off to the highest bidder for drilling, mining and logging.

These politicians, echoing the beliefs of outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy, who has publicly refused to recognize the federal government’s authority, are also highlighted in the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “Bundy’s Buddies” series and on the website, Bundy’s standoff with federal officials over grazing fees owed to taxpayers drew national attention earlier this year.

In addition to his comments at the debate, a Beauprez campaign document entitled, “Liberty’s Promise: My Plan to Protect Freedom and Constitutional Rights,” lays out the former congressman’s plans to “reestablish state rights and duties,” in part by “establish[ing] a process for taking control over public lands back from the federal government.”

Colorado’s public lands make up around 36 percent of the state and include some iconic places such as Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Despite claims by Beauprez and other politicians that the lands are “supposed” to belong to the states, these proposals for state land seizures are unconstitutional and would place extreme financial burden on state taxpayers.

Beauprez has also expressed some extreme views on human-caused climate change, saying in his 2009 book “A Return to Values,” that climate change as “at best a grossly overhyped issue and at worst a complete hoax foisted on most of the world.” He compared the “global warming fervor” to “a religious revival or a spiritual experience, with the word being spread by the true believers with similar evangelical enthusiasm.”

Recent polling shows Gov. Hickenlooper narrowly leading Beauprez. Five additional debates are planned for later this fall.

Claire Moser is the Research and Advocacy Associate with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. You can follow her on Twitter at @Claire_Moser.