In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal last night, Mitt Romney expressed his ignorance of why the United States owns and manages approximately 80 percent of Nevada‘s land, most of it uninhabitable mountains and desert. In response to a question about whether he would sell public lands back to the state, Romney stated that that “I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land”:
I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada. And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there. What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.” I mean, it drove the people nuts. Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.
So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.