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GOP presidential candidates’ environmental agendas? Selling our public lands.

GOP Presidential Candidates’ Environmental Agendas? Selling Our Public Lands

Tomorrow, the many remaining GOP candidates will gather in Boulder, Colorado for the third debate of the presidential primary season. Colorado is no stranger to the impacts of climate change: from wildfires to droughts to extreme flooding, the state has experienced the effects of rising temperatures firsthand. Yet, even in the lead up to tomorrow night’s debate, Republican candidates have barely mentioned climate change at all, much less offered concrete proposals for how to address it. To the extent that the candidates have covered environmental issues, their focus has been on denying climate change, expanding oil and gas drilling, and privatizing America’s national forests and public lands.

A new CAP Action report released today takes a closer look at Republican presidential candidates’ support for selling off public lands or transferring them to state control. These proposals might be a boon to Big Oil companies and private developers, but would result in the loss of cherished open spaces, higher taxes for states, and fewer fishing, hiking, and outdoor recreation opportunities. According to CAP Action’s report, seven GOP candidates who will participate in tomorrow’s debate are on the record supporting efforts to transfer or sell our national forests and other public lands. Check out the graphic below for more details on their positions:


While selling off our national parks and forests may be popular with extreme far-right voters and fossil fuel industry giants, it is unpopular with American voters—especially Western voters—most of whom oppose the idea of giving away America’s public lands and energy resources. A recent poll commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association and conducted by a bipartisan polling team found that Colorado voters oppose proposals to transfer America’s national forests and public lands to state ownership by a 2-1 margin. Instead they want candidates to focus on spurring more job growth in renewable energy.

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, Colorado Democrats are keeping the pressure on. In a press conference held on the University of Colorado campus – near the building where the Republican candidates will debate tomorrow – Colorado leaders and student activists urged the GOP to discuss climate change. “My hope is that the candidates coming to the GOP debate to address the reality of climate change,” said former Obama administration Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Candidates must be forthright on an issue that is so pressing and challenging to our time.” Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Jones echoed that message: “We take climate change pretty seriously out here,” Jones said, “and we expect any aspiring political leaders to take it seriously as well.” Salazar also described a “Royal Gorge-sized chasm” between those who want to privatize public lands and the majority of westerners.

BOTTOM LINE: Republican presidential candidates’ rhetoric on environmental issues has become predictable and is inadequate. Rather than focusing on selling off our national forests and other public lands to the highest bidder, GOP candidates should focus on presenting concrete solutions to address the growing threat of climate change and transition to a clean energy future.

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