SB15-039: The Ploy by Colorado Senate Republicans to Privatize Public Lands

The Senate Republican talking points on SB15-039 are beginning to become unravelled.  I guess that was bound to happen, considering the size of the con that they are trying to pull on the Colorado people.  For those who don’t know: SB 15-039 is a bill that is sponsored by Republican Senator’s Cadman and Lambert.  This bill is copied, nearly word for word, from ALEC, a think-tank funded by free market ideologues, billionaires and major U.S. corporations.  In fact, this kind of copy and paste job would quickly get any student immediately kicked out of school for plagiarism.  Read for yourself and compare the bills: Here is SB39  and Here is the identical ALEC bill 

The original Republican talking points concealed their true intentions under the words of “sharing jurisdiction” with the federal government and “managing” the lands in a supposedly better fashion than the federal government.  Senator Lambert stated that this bill would give the state more control in dealing with wildfires.  And, yet, as an article by Democrat Senator, Kerry Donvan stated, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters are opposed to this bill because it would be harmful.  They stated, “Don’t mess with a working system.”

However, the Colorado Senate Republican’s don’t care what the experts in Colorado have to say about public lands; they’ve got a bill to push through from an east coast think tank that has corporate interests in mind, and not the Colorado public.  Furthermore, the Senate Republican’s press secretary, Sean Paige, is beginning to reveal the true nature of the bill as Colorado constituents and the Colorado Senate Democrats started pushing back against their privatization ploy.  In the past few days, Sean has been recycling his past far-fetched tweets.  

Here is a tweet from Sean Paige in February (before he was hired by Senate Republicans)

And here is yesterday’s tweet from the Senate GOP twitter handle 

First off, the nature of these kind of tweets is surreal.  They are essentially blaming the powerful forces of nature (pine beetle and forest fires) on the federal government for not having God-like powers to stop these acts of nature.  Ironically, these acts of nature are nature’s way of managing itself.  These Senate Republican tweets are nothing more than fear propaganda to sell a bill that seeks to privatize public lands under the guise of “we can manage it better.”

We know for a fact that this bill was written by ALEC.  This is indisputable.  So why exactly would a think tank that is funded by large extractive corporations, who are openly hostile to federal regulations and protected lands, spend large amounts of money to craft bills like SB15- 039?  Are we really to believe that these large extractive companies simply want the state to take control of these lands so that citizens can continue to enjoy Colorado’s public lands and wilderness areas?  Wilderness areas and protected lands that will somehow be better managed by a state with far less resources?  

No, these companies fund ALEC (and the campaigns of Senate Republicans) to write these kinds of bills so that states will eventually lease, or privatize, the protected public lands and wilderness areas to them.  That is the ultimate end goal here; the free market is the solution to them.  And their public relations ploy is to fleece the public with tales of “we can manage it better.”  Manage, of course, means selling and leasing protected public lands to the extractive industry because, you know, they believe that free market is the solution for every single problem in this world.

Just last night the Senate Republicans inadvertently revealed this to be true with a reply to my tweet.  My original tweet stated: “Sad that @ColoSenGOP is pushing free market #ALEC legislation under the guise of “managing” #publiclands.  Here is their reply:


First, notice how they have to twist the usage of my meaning of free market by suggesting that I am using it as a pejorative.  However, this is not the case; I simply don’t agree that the free market is the solution for every single problem in the world, especially keeping public lands public.  Second, notice how they inadvertently reveal that SB15-039 is, in fact, a free market based “solution.” 

The private market economy is a wonderful mechanism for organizing productive activities.  And, as the Colorado Senate Republicans pointed out, the market economy is, without a doubt, one of the reasons for the creation of the greatest economies in the world.  Few people would actually dispute that.  However, can anyone honestly say that the private market economy is a wonderful mechanism for keeping public lands and protected wilderness areas… public?  

I’m guessing the Senate Republicans who are trying to con the Colorado people right now with this bill are delusional enough to suggest such a thing.  Ideologues have a tendency to emancipate themselves from reality when reality intrudes on their ideological theories.  But in reality… keeping public and wilderness lands public and protected for the citizens’ recreational enjoyment, is the antithesis of a private market economy.  If anybody wants to argue otherwise, feel free…

The saddest part about this Senate Republican con job is that it removes any kind of honest public debate.  As they hide behind their facade, we miss the opportunity to have honest discussions about the limits of the market economy.  As political theorist Michael Sandel wrote, “One of the most striking tendencies of our time is the expansion of markets and market-oriented reasoning into spheres of life traditionally governed by non-market norms.”  Sandel is not arguing that markets are a bad thing, he actually recognizes the greatness of market economies.  But he simply believes that “unless we want to let the market rewrite the norms that govern social institutions, we need a public debate about the moral limits of markets.”  

In other words, do we want our public lands and protected wilderness areas (the commons) to be governed by market norms?  You are likely nodding your head in approval if you are part of an industry that stands to make extraordinary profits from the resources found in these areas.  And you are probably weeping at the thought of oil and gas rigs in these protected areas if you are the millions and millions of people who go to these wonderful national treasures to enjoy your respective leisures.

But, I guess, therein may lie the good part.  Colorado citizens are overwhelmingly in support of protecting Colorado’s public lands for their enjoyment.  Thus, the Senate Republican ideologues who are trying to con the Colorado public by pushing ALEC legislation may just turn out to be their own worst enemy.  

Sincerely yours,

Mark Olson 

P.S. – I have no copy editor, nor do I swim in the donor pools who will give me money to shill for their interests.  Thus my perspective and any grammatical errors above are all mine.

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