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Kiss Your Parks Goodbye? GOP Rep. Promises To ‘Reverse This Trend of Public Ownership of Lands’

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) said that if elected, Mitt Romney will help turn back public lands to the states or private entities.
 
 
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An aerial view of the Grand Canyon in 2009. The US administration announced Monday a 20-year ban on new mining projects around the Grand Canyon, in a move aimed at protecting the prized tourist area from the impact of uranium extraction.

 
 
 
 

DENVER, Colorado — A key western congressman declared late last week that Mitt Romney supports his push to “reverse this trend of public ownership of lands.”

In a speech to the Colorado Conservative Political Action Conference, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) criticized Teddy Roosevelt’s “big ideas of big forests and big national parks,” which primarily exist in the West. Pearce told the audience that, if elected, Mitt Romney will help turn back public lands to the states or private entities.

PEARCE: America, each state, the public lands were given back to the states after they were chartered. But in the West, starting with Teddy Roosevelt who had the big ideas of big forests and big national parks, they held that land. And so the next chart shows you the effect on us in the West. Just understand this is the education. The red is of course bad. We’re starved in the West for education funds because of policies that Mitt Romney sat and listened to Rob Bishop and myself explain when it came to Hobbs.  He knows that if we want to reverse the trend, we’ll reverse this trend of public ownership of lands starving education.

Watch it:

Though Romney’s campaign has  asserted that they’re not targeting national parks for further drilling, Pearce disputed the notion that they should be off-limits. “Constitutionally,” Pearce told ThinkProgress after the speech, decisions about drilling in national parks and other public-owned lands “should be left with the states.” Indeed, drilling is  already underway in a number of parks, with dozens more threatened.

Public lands are vital to the nation for  many reasons. They allow anyone, not just the wealthy, access to beautiful natural areas. They provide clean air and water. They even help the United States adapt to climate change  while boosting the economy.

For a primer on how the nation’s 700 million acres of public lands could be affected under a Romney presidency, click  here.

Scott Keyes is a researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
 
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