Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sad Day For American Angling

     Believe me I’d much rather be writing about fly fishing. Yet in light of continuing events, frankly, I’m distracted to the point that writing about our game seems trite.

Perceiving evidence that it was coming, several months back I wrote & posted to SHJ, Dominionism Rising, a piece about the Republican plan to auction off the Public Trust and privatize our public lands & waterways. Well, it happened. In a move during the first session of the new Congress, the vote split down Party lines, Republicans voted to put the Public Trust up for auction. The first batch of public land going on the block will be 3.5 million acres over  ten states, an area about the size of Connecticut -- & the sale will include three national monuments. 

Though unconfirmed, multiple sources indicate the Saudis will be stepping up to bid on a good chunk of it. During the process, Republicans rescinded a law requiring that public lands be sold at a profit, if they are sold at all (I'd imagine based on current real estate values in the respective areas). So it looks like the Saudis or whoever else can afford it is going to get a discount bargain on what used to belong to the American people. 

Starting to sound like fake news? I wish it was.    

Ryan Zinke (R Montana), Trump's appointee to head the Department of the Interior, only three weeks ago vowed to preserve the "sanctity" of the Public Trust, yet is now heartily endorsing the "disposal" of the federal lands. 

I have to admit, brilliant timing, the public absorbed & distracted with a news cycle loaded with so much else this is barely getting mention.     

Values we hold dear are being trampled by a consortium of powerful men. I know for a fact that many of you, in addition to many other concerned citizens, wrote your congressmen on behalf of retaining our commonwealth, however, they did not listen. Why? I’ve talked to a lot of folks about this issue, including Republican friends, & have not met a single soul in favor of selling off the public lands. So why did the majority of Republican members of Congress, who’s job is to represent the will of their constituents, sign off on this radical turn?

Well, follow the money trail & it will lead you to the truth. This crap has been cooking on a back burner for a long time, waiting for a Republican majority to get it done. Here’s a 2015 piece from the Seattle Times outlining the trajectory.      

In an interview a reporter reminded Donald Trump that he had formerly (before the election) promised to preserve the Public Trust regarding public lands, then asked why he (Trump) & congressional Republicans were going ahead with dismantling it, ignoring a preponderance of input from the public, Trump let this slip: “The parks belong to me now.”

So I guess that means they no longer belong to you & me. 

Making America great again.


  1. You really are going to make me have to dig out my Elinor Ostrom (she published a bunch since I had to consider the tragedy of the commons years ago).

    I once had a choice to build one of two econometric simulations: the commons or a deceptive price interpreter (where partners publicly lie about the economic value of the goods exchanged). The price interpreter was easier for me and I went with it. It was successful. Worked well on fraud detection in the options markets, too -- years later. Nobody cared about it when it was all new and shiny. Tools are like that.

    Never did revisit the commons.

    Now you're making me consider the governance approaches to shared resources and the models of success actually implemented in capitalist economies (socialist economics have nothing to lend to the practical issues here).

    I hate it when I have to think. You're killing me on this one, Steve.

    I'll find some successful regulatory transfer models for you. I know there are at least two workable frameworks in the literature.

    If you're going to start the grass-roots regional protection lobby for lands released to states in the NW, then you need some strategies that you can point to as you craft legislation. It's a weakness in the "cause" world. You have to have a pretty good plan beyond indignation. (Indignation helps, but it isn't enough).

    I'll dig this weekend. I know I have notes from conversations on this very topic at home locked away in papers from the early 90's. <>

    I didn't want to tie bead-heads anyway.

  2. Spike, by "Plan" I presume you mean a stewardship plan, & such a plan is fairly understood & outlined within the communities of Science & Humanities -- though requires a consilience of the Sciences & Humanities that current politics will not allow. I'm sure you are aware of the recent presidential muzzle applied to the Sciences. And that brings us back to "indignation" -- though recent evidence shows we cannot underestimate the power of indignation.

    And remember, this is a populist blog that occasionally expresses bits of news accompanied by commentary that expresses my personal view (opinion) on said news. And of course I welcome any opposing views & those may float here in a comment box, possibly commented upon, possibly not, but floating just the same.

    And then there is you. My friend. Who would divert me from grassroots, pure-D, blue-collar, carnival-barker populism, & attempt to lure me into a mind-spaghetti-ing, academic, type-a-thon discussion of ‘The Commons’ which would require me, for historical context, to work backwards from John Locke & the Lockean proviso to begin the discourse with the entire Common World of the Neolithic period &, from there, write through the Roman Res communes – explicitly naming waterways, shorelines, wildlife & air as common property belonging to all citizens. During the Middle Ages, kings & feudal lords often claimed forests, waterways & wildlife, & these claims periodically rebuked. The Magna Carta, which King John of England was forced to sign in 1215, reserved forests & fisheries as Res communes. By the time of English-born American patriot, Thomas Paine (the English Industrial Revolution), the English Commons had been severely chipped away by the ruling aristocracy, resulting in the wide-spread environmental degradation from which Britain has still not fully recovered. Loss of the English Commons was one of the things that pissed Thomas Paine off & inspired him to change citizenship, though, like Locke, he did see the necessity of private land ownership, yet was of the opinion that citizens should be repaid for loss of commons, in the form an annual stipend.

    And yes, I can name some examples of the positive result of transferred public lands: Land Ordinance of 1785; Reclamation Act; Morrill Land Grant College act; & The Homestead Act, the largest wealth-creating government program of all time, come to mind. But then it could be argued that the Homestead Act was not well-balanced with the Lockean proviso, resulting in the fragmentation & loss of the extensive prairie grasslands, bringing the great herds of American bison, as well as many other plants & animals, to the brink of extinction.

    I could go on – if you want to keep going. Backwards or forward from Locke. But I think the whole thing illustrates the need to re-invest in our public schools, returning Civics to the curriculum. I feel fortunate to have attended public school in New England, where Mrs. Green, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. White & Mrs. Flint, alive during the Revolution, were still teaching.

    I’ll cut it short & leave you with this from Alaska Governor Walter Hickle:

    “If you steal $10 from a man’s wallet, you’re likely to get into a fight, but if you steal billions from the Commons co-owned by him and his descendants, he may not even notice.”

  3. I'm with you. I just don't think we can stop it. Next best is to put in place the legislation at the state level allowing regulatory management through the myriad of stakeholders.

    Water management in coastal water districts through a consortium on stakeholder bodies (CA) and the Great Lakes compact are frequent examples but I'm hoping to find better. Water trusts in .Japan I think qualify but I don't know offhand if the sluce flows were ever fully privatized.

    that's the management for commons in a practical sense ... Ill find a good example of a multi-faceted regulatory domain for you because I don't see public lands eliciting the same hue and cry as other policy. I too lived through Watt and that whole business was a punchline in the back pages of the _Post_. The Interior didn't have legs as a story to walk until it became about the man and not his action .... This was from a President who said trees caused pollution and won by a landslide.

    I'm not hopeful I can stop a flood so I'm looking for boats early. Not trying to pet the fur the wrong way.

    You've got a chance to influence state policy.

    1. Spike, I agree. Sadly true. And why I'm having a hard time getting over being indignant. Sure, I'll contribute my two cents at the State level. Have been, for years. And from now on, fuck it, going where I please & fishing where I please (within the limitations of the fishing regs, of course). That's the plan.

  4. I'll join you as a wildcatter. I've been known to have little regard for authority. Says that somewhere in my permanent file.

    1. Yeah in mine too. Don't sweat it. I'll hold the wire up while you roll under the fence amigo.