On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) is spreading a far-right conspiracy theory that the Biden administration is planning to seize land in Nebraska for the federal government.
"Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is on a statewide speaking tour to denounce what he and some far-right allies are portraying as an outrageous intrusion by the Biden administration: a conservation program that he says will seize lands from local control," reported Kelly Weill. "There's one problem: The program proposes nothing of the sort, and its chief opponents are not local at all. They include a Texas-based organization whose most vocal associates — including one who met with Ricketts — have likened conservation programs to Nazi and Soviet atrocities."
Conspiracy theories about land grabs have been floated for years. The United Nation's Agenda 21 sustainability plan was baselessly attacked by right-wing activists as a plot to overrule American sovereignty. And in Texas, a routine military exercise called Jade Helm was seen as a pretext for a federal takeover, with Gov. Greg Abbott even sending state guardsmen to monitor the military.
The latest hysteria is targeting a conservation initiative currently in the works.
"The 'America the Beautiful' or '30x30' initiative is a Biden administration plan to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land by 2030, a goal celebrated by environmentalists. That doesn't mean seizing private lands, officials say, but offering new protections to public and tribal lands, and extending voluntary programs that pay farmers for adopting sustainable practices," said the report. "But many details remain unannounced. And while they are pending, figures on the right are filling the void with their own conjectures about the plan — part of what appears to be a larger mobilization on the far right around land and water issues across the country."
"You'll see that it talks about being voluntary and local," said Ricketts during one event earlier this week. "Well, they have to say that because the president has no constitutional authority to do this."
This new discontent comes as right-wing farmers in Oregon — spurred on by activists tied to anti-government militant Ammon Bundy — are threatening to force open the floodgates of Upper Klamath Lake, in defiance of federal orders conserving water amid a drought. Bundy himself is mounting a bid for governor of Idaho.