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Just Who Do These Extremists Want to Sell Our Parks To?

Never heard of Grover Norquist? Consider yourself lucky. But there’s a good chance your member of Congress has. He’s the right-wing extremist whose only aim in life appears to be to slash the watchdog agencies that protect American workers, consumers, and families and to gut the safeguards that protect - among other things - our air, our water, our lands and our climate. He himself said he wanted a government so small that “we could drown it in the bathtub.” Given his reckless ideology, we can only suppose that his imaginary bathtub would be full of polluted water.

Thanks to a bevy of financial support from deep-pocketed corporations and special interests that also oppose popular, common-sense protections like the Clean Air Act, Norquist has risen to prominence in the Republican Party. In fact, a “pledge” from his “Americans for Tax Reform” organization is signed by 219 members of the House and 39 Senators. Its a pact with Norquist that binds these elected representatives to inaction on many issues “even if your country goes to hell,” as former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said in critique.

It is Norquist’s modus operandi to attack the federal government and anyone who works for it - except, of course, those members of Congress he has in his pocket. So to the Norquist Caucus, the shutdown isn’t a crisis that affects Americans -- its a dream scenario to score cheap political points.

The perfect example came this morning, when Norquist went so far as to suggest the American government sell off our national parks:

The irony is so thick its almost poisonous. Norquist and his followers in Congress were the architects of the government shutdown -- and now they are using it as an excuse to pawn off our crown jewels.

Its a statement that’s as candid as it is stupid. That’s because Norquist’s proposal comes shortly after Republican leaders in the House - almost all of whom are in Grover’s pocket - tried to push deeply flawed legislation they claimed would open up our national parks, amid mounting criticism from their constituents. The fact that their proposal would have failed to open many national monuments, national forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and marine sanctuaries makes sense - House Republican leadership have been actively attacking our public lands for years, so its no surprise they wouldn’t know how to protect them.

If we take Norquist’s proposal at face value - and we should - the logical question to ask is who would he and his allies sell our parks to? Its not a big logical leap to assume it’d be the oil and gas drillers who’ve been funding Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform while they’ve been drooling at the prospect of setting up shop in even more of our parks and lands.

Since 2010, Norquist’s organization has taken $525,000 in financial support from the oil industry’s top lobbying group in Washington. And they’ve acted like it. Now, he’s tipped their hand - they would prefer to use the shutdown to auction off our special places to the highest bidder.

Norquist’s plan shows clearly that the gulf between John Boehner’s rhetoric and reality on our public lands is as wide as the Grand Canyon - which they’d probably sell to mining companies. Places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rio Grande del Norte, and Chimney Rock are part of our nation’s legacy. That’s something that’s too big to drown in a bathtub and too important to sell for any price.

--Athan Manuel, Director, Sierra Club Lands Protection Program

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