Romney to Nevadans: I Don’t Know ‘What The Purpose is’ of Public Lands

(Hint: They Pump $1 Billion into the State Economy and Support 13,000 Jobs)

by Jessica Goad, cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney likes to sing about America the beautiful, but he mainly seems interested in mining it.

In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal last night, Mitt Romney expressed his ignorance of why the United States owns and manages approximately 80 percent of Nevada‘s land, most of it uninhabitable mountains and desert.  In response to a question about whether he would sell public lands back to the state, Romney stated that that “I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land”:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada.  And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there.  What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.”  I mean, it drove the people nuts.  Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Watch it:

Romney’s statement stands in stark contrast to the conservative tradition of knowing the value of protecting the lands that belong to all of us places for future generations. Teddy Roosevelt, the great Republican conservationist, once said, “Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.”

Public lands in Nevada – and other western states—actually provide an enormous economic boost and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs.  Indeed, recent Interior Department statistics show that federally managed public lands in Nevada provided over $1 billion in economic impacts and supported 13,311 jobs in 2010. This statistic doesn’t even include the economic impacts of Forest Service lands, managed by the Department of Agriculture).  Recreation, energy and minerals, and grazing and timber all play a part in the economic effects that public lands provide to Nevada.  Activities like skiing at Lake Tahoe, boating at Lake Mead, and hiking at Great Basin National Park all take place on public lands.

Even Romney himself once mentioned on the campaign trail that when on vacations with his family when he was young “we went from national park to national park.  And they [my parents] were teaching me to fall in love with America.”

He might want to have a better answer about the purpose and value of public lands before he arrives in Colorado tomorrow.  A recent poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found that 93 percent of Colorado voters agreed that “Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

Jessica Goad is Manager of Research and Outreach for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress Action Fund

19 Responses to Romney to Nevadans: I Don’t Know ‘What The Purpose is’ of Public Lands

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    It’s like listening to George W. Bush he was on acid.

  2. M Tucker says:

    How does someone like Mitt look at “uninhabitable mountains and deserts” and see America the beautiful? By imagining the wealth generated when the land is redeemed by exploiting its resources.

    How in the world did the US public become the owner of so much of Nevada? How did the US public acquire so much of the land west of the Mississippi? Don’t you think an American, educated in America, should know?

  3. A bit off-topic…

    There was a floating box survey speeding around above the main Romm webpage. Up there for a good ten seconds advertising ARCO, obliterating my view of the main text, my actual reason for being here each day, and it was asking me how often I pollute the atmosphere with their products.

    Deliberate sabotage?

  4. Mugsy says:

    In Republican Land, the only purpose of “public” land is to be raped & exploited for its resources.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    First he doesn’t care about the poor, and now this. Romney apparently doesn’t even realize that public land is being debauched anyway, through mining, drilling, and logging. It’s cheaper for extractive industries to plunder public land than it is to buy it, even with a few more regulations. Nevadans know this, and are not lining up to buy or condemn land owned by Interior or USDA.

    The man appears to be on a political suicide mission. Maybe it’s his unconscious mind telling him that he doesn’t actually want to be president.

  6. Gail Zawacki says:

    This is so unpalatable, I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I read it.

    What a sick. F***

  7. As Chief Seattle said: we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Mr. Romney appears open to the possibility of not only borrowing it, but also packaging it into subprime derivatives and selling it to a bunch of suckers who don’t know any better.

  8. Paul Revere says:

    “Even Romney himself once mentioned on the campaign trail that when on vacations with his family when he was young “we went from national park to national park. And they [my parents] were teaching me to fall in love with America.””

    Public lands are NOT national parks, as I’m sure you well know.

  9. amasiam says:

    National parks are public land, though not all public lands are national parks.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    He surprises us everyday now :) Yesterday it was ranting vs the poor ( the 99%).

  11. Joan Savage says:

    Romney’s evasion, not knowing the purposes of federal lands, needs more of an answer than the “economy.” Think water.

    One major reason to conserve the Adirondack Park, an enormous state park, is as a pristine watershed, one that is the back-up supply for New York City if the Catskills water supply ever were damaged (e.g. fracking or suburbanization). True, the Adirondack park also generates millions in tourism and recreation dollars, but bottom line is a basic survival need for potable water. If the people in Nevada, Utah and Colorado don’t know where their water supplies comes from, it is high time for them to learn and explain it to Romney.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    Here’s a USGS fact sheet on aquifers in those states:

  13. John McCormick says:

    Does he include Lafayette Park?

  14. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Dubya would have said: “I don’t know ‘what the purpose are’ of public lands”. It’s the same sentiment, but with a different ‘sense’ of pluralism.;o)

  15. Chris Lines says:

    As long as the public lands could make more money for him.

  16. Paul Revere says:

    A study would also find the notion that correlation equals causation is also correlated with low intelligence.

  17. Anne van der Bom says:

    Of course there is no correlation! These propeties just happen to be found in the same people. That’s all.

    Which is of course obvious for anyone. Except perhaps maybe someone with right wing beliefs (who is more likely to have below average intelligence).

  18. Anne van der Bom says:

    Oops, typo, ‘correlation’ –> ‘causation’.