Ted Cruz is consistent. He told Nevadans the federal government owns too much of their state and on Saturday he told Idahoans the same thing. Stumping in Coeur d’Alene, Cruz called for transferring “back” the land owned by all Americans, first saying that it should go to states, then implying it would be better in private hands.
“Too much land in this country, particularly in the West, is owned by the federal government,” he said. “It’s not right, it doesn’t make sense. And we need to transfer that land back to the states, or even better, back to the people. The people of Idaho know much better what to do with the land here than does the federal government.”
Prior to the Nevada Republican presidential caucus in late February, Cruz ran televisions attacking fellow candidate Donald Trump for his unwillingness to sell off Americans’ legacy. In an interview with Field & Stream, Trump said, “I don’t like the idea, because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble?” His campaign has said that he would keep federal holdings but streamline red tape.
For Cruz, that’s not even close to enough. In Idaho, he noted that the U.S. owns two percent of the land in his home state of Texas. “I gotta tell ya, in Texas we think that’s two percent too much.”
Cruz isn’t the only one clamoring to “take back” federal lands. The Republican National Committee issued a call “upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the imminent transfer of public lands to all willing western states.”
The problem with Cruz’s position is that federal lands never belonged to Idaho or any other state, nor did it belong to “the people,” unless by people he means the Native Americans from whom it was taken. As a condition of entering the union of the United States, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Nevada gave up any claims to unappropriated public lands. It was never theirs.