In 2018, natural resources attorney Harriet Hageman ran for governor of Wyoming on a pledge to “reform federal land management and access” and fight burdensome federal regulations.
Public lands were a hot-button issue in midterm elections across the West that 12 months. Hunting and conservation groups had rallied to defeat an anti-public lands bill a 12 months earlier, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), that might have sold off 3.3 million acres of federal land in 10 Western states, including Wyoming. And the Trump administration was advancing its assault on public land and environmental protections — what ultimately proved to be the most anti-conservation record of any administration in history.
In August 2018, the conservation group Wyoming Wildlife Federation hosted a candidate forum for the state’s gubernatorial race. When asked about her vision for federal land management, Hageman voiced her support for transferring control of public lands to states, starting with 1 million acres in Wyoming as a part of a pilot project, High Country News reported on the time.
Hageman’s comment caused a stir inside Wyoming’s hunting, outdoor recreation and conservation communities. After the forum, the Wyoming Hunters and Anglers Alliance, then a rising hunting and public lands advocacy group, endorsed Mark Gordon, Hageman’s opponent, and the present Republican governor. The group cited the candidates’ views on public land transfer in its decision, in accordance with High Country News.
Hageman ultimately placed third in the first field, securing just 21% of the vote to Gordon’s 33%. Dwayne Meadows, who on the time was executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, told HuffPost that Hageman and other candidates’ hostility toward public lands swung the election in Gordon’s favor.
“I believe it did influence it,” he said of the end result. “I actually do.”
4 years later, Hageman is back on the campaign trail, running to oust GOP Rep. Liz Cheney. Only this time, her record and views on the federal estate are barely a part of the discussion. As a substitute, the race has largely change into a referendum on former President Donald Trump and Cheney’s participation on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“The voters in Wyoming are so enamored with Trump that anybody who attacks him, akin to Cheney has, that becomes the central issue, where unexpectedly people aren’t occupied with what else Hageman would bring to the plate,” said Cheyenne resident Earl DeGroot, a self-declared moderate Republican, sportsman and member of Keep It Public, Wyoming, a coalition of public lands advocates.
“This complete race is boiling right down to Cheney’s work on the Jan. 6 committee,” he added. “I believe there’s rather a lot at stake, and folks aren’t the problems.”
Republican U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman walks on stage to introduce former President Donald Trump at a rally on May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming. Trump endorsed Hageman within the race.
Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images
Public lands and methods to manage them is a big issue in Wyoming, because it is in all Western states where the federal government owns a big percentage of land. Nearly half of Wyoming is federally owned and its outdoor recreation industry generates roughly $4.5 billion annually in consumer spending. A survey by Colorado College earlier this 12 months found that 88% of Wyoming residents consider issues involving clean water, wildlife and public lands when deciding who to support for elected office. Moreover, 78% said they’d visited national public lands greater than twice previously 12 months, and 71% said they support creating more protected federal sites.
John Gale, conservation director at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said public lands are “critically necessary” for hunting, fishing and outdoor access and have been a “unifying force” lately. But in Wyoming and elsewhere, false claims of a stolen 2020 election have sucked the oxygen out of the room, he said.
“In a spot like Wyoming, public lands used to feature prominently,” Gale said. “The politics of the day have distracted from those issues, in order that they aren’t even a spotlight in any respect. And I believe it’s disheartening to see this lack of concentrate on really necessary issues that impact people back home.”
For 3 a long time, Hageman has been sparring with environmentalists, suing federal agencies over land use decisions and advocating for transferring control of federal lands to states. It’s a record of anti-conservation, anti-government zealotry that after earned her the nickname “Wicked Witch of the West” amongst environmentalists — a title she embraced.
Come next 12 months, Hageman may very well be Wyoming’s recent at-large congresswoman and, if she has it her way, a member of the House committee with jurisdiction over energy development, public lands and wildlife. Polls have shown Hageman with a commanding lead over Cheney. The winner of the GOP primary on Aug. 16 is all but guaranteed to sail to victory within the November general election.
“This complete race is boiling right down to Cheney’s work on the Jan. 6 committee. I believe there’s rather a lot at stake, and folks aren’t the problems.”
– Cheyenne resident Earl DeGroot
At first, Hageman has tied her Senate bid to Trump — a move that has required a dizzying level of flip-flopping. In 2016, Hageman called Trump “racist and xenophobic” and worked unsuccessfully to strip him of the Republican presidential nomination. Now vying for Congress in a dark red state, she is touting her endorsement from Trump, calling him “the best president of my lifetime” and vowing “to do every part in my power to Make America Great Again — Again.”
Hageman has also followed Trump and Republicans’ lead in viciously attacking Cheney for her efforts to carry Trump accountable for inciting the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in January 2021.
“We’re fed up with the Jan. 6 commission and people individuals who think that they’ll gaslight us,” she shouted at a “Save Wyoming” rally with Trump in June, drawing uproarious applause. “And we’re fed up with Liz Cheney.”
The identical 12 months that she condemned Trump, Hageman endorsed Cheney’s congressional bid, calling her a “friend” and a “proven, courageous, constitutional conservative,” as CNN’s KFile reported. She also decried “concerted efforts to force true conservatives to take a seat down and shut up” before adding, “those efforts have never worked on me and I do know that they’ll not work on and don’t have any effect on Liz Cheney.”
With Hageman, Wyoming would get greater than a loyal Trump convert to switch a top nemesis of Trump who, as Hageman appropriately forecast in 2016, hasn’t backed down within the face of monumental pressure from her party. They might also get a 59-year-old lawyer and rancher who was carrying the anti-environment, anti-government torch and denying the clear realities of climate change long before Trump ever got here along.
“I even have been fighting for you, and winning, against the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture,” Hageman said on the June rally.
Hageman’s campaign didn’t reply to HuffPost’s requests for an interview.
Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman speaks at a rally on the Teton County Fair & Rodeo Grounds on June 14, 2022, in Jackson, Wyoming.
Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images
Proud Environmental Foe
Hageman grew up on a ranch outside Fort Laramie, in eastern Wyoming, and graduated with a law degree from the University of Wyoming in 1989. She talks often concerning the federal government and Washington bureaucrats being the best threat to Wyoming’s economy and lifestyle.
Through the years, Hageman has repeatedly gone to bat against federal regulators on behalf of farmers, ranchers, industry, water districts, and state and native governments. She is currently senior litigation counsel on the Latest Civil Liberty Alliance, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based firm that has waged legal battles against federal emissions and other environmental rules, COVID-19 mandates and gun restrictions.
Hageman’s highest-profile legal fight occurred within the early 2000s when she was a key player in Wyoming’s battle against the Clinton administration’s so-called “roadless rule.” Signed in 2001, the conservation rule prohibits constructing roads and harvesting timber on 58.5 million acres of national forest lands across the country. In 2003, a federal judge in Wyoming blocked the rule from taking effect. A separate court reinstated the rule in 2006, only to have the Wyoming judge again invalidate it in 2008. A federal appeals court upheld the rule in 2011.
Like many conservatives, Hageman is a vocal critic of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), probably the most necessary laws for safeguarding imperiled plants and animals. In 2009, she represented a coalition of agricultural interests and hunting guides in a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the management of gray wolves in Wyoming.
Hageman argues that the ESA has change into a tool for “radical environmentalists” to “stop development, control land and water use, and stop the development and maintenance of much-needed infrastructure projects.” And she or he has warned that conservationists wish to “herald all of the endangered species from everywhere in the world and release them” in Wyoming.
“They’ll simply move the people off and convey in lions, elephants and cheetahs,” she said in 2011.
Wolves from the Wapiti Lake pack feed on a dead bison in Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, in January 2018.
Photo by Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service via AP
Hageman’s legal profession has aligned her with among the nation’s most radical anti-federal lands advocates. She served for years on the board of litigation for Mountain States Legal Foundation, a right-wing, industry-funded group once described because the “litigating arm of the Sensible Use Movement.” William Perry Pendley, a conservative lawyer with extreme anti-government and anti-environmentalism views, served because the organization’s president for nearly three a long time before the Trump administration tapped him to guide the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The so-called “wise-use movement” was a gaggle of anti-government organizations that gained momentum within the Eighties and pushed to spice up mining, drilling and logging on federal lands while painting environmentalists as domestic terrorists.
In 2016, Hageman was a keynote speaker on the American Lands Council’s (ALC) annual conference in Salt Lake City. The Utah-based nonprofit advocates for the “timely and orderly transfer of federal public lands to willing states for local control that may provide higher public access, higher environmental health, and higher economic productivity.” Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah and longtime leader of the pro-land-transfer movement, co-founded ALC in 2012 and led it until 2016.
On the conference, Hageman insisted that the U.S. is “moving to the purpose where the federal government is dictating just about every aspect of our lives.” America will change into a socialist country if we don’t rein within the federal government, she declared.
“Why do we want all these federal agencies?” she asked. “We’re sovereign.”
Hageman has dismissed climate change as a “scam” and helped advance the right-wing disinformation campaign against President Joe Biden’s conservation goal of protecting 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. She has repeated conspiratorial talking points concerning the “30×30” initiative being a large federal “land grab.” And in her August 2021 opinion piece, Hageman declared without evidence that 30×30 is “intentionally designed to make us yet again depending on foreign, and sometimes hostile, governments for our energy resources” and can “quickly and negatively impact our lifestyle, housing costs, food production, and the environment.”
The Biden administration has dismissed such claims and said it’s committed to “collaboration, support for voluntary and locally-led conservation and honoring of tribal sovereignty and personal property rights.”
‘A Rock And A Hard Place’
It’s unclear if Hageman’s flip-flop on Trump and Cheney boils right down to easy political opportunism. Or if she got here around after the Trump administration took a wrecking ball to environmental safeguards and prioritized fossil fuel production above almost every part else. Possibly it’s each.
What is obvious is that by June 2020, Hageman had done a full 180. That month she was a keynote speaker at an anti-federal lands event that Trump’s Interior Department hosted at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event was organized by the American Agri-Women coalition and titled “Federal Land Policies: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” For greater than two hours, Hageman and Myron Ebell, a outstanding climate change denier and advocate of shrinking the federal estate, were amongst those that grumbled concerning the amount of land the federal government owns and railed against federal land management agencies, including the one they were standing in. Hageman plugged her pitch for pilot projects that might give states the authority to administer large swaths of public land as they see fit and earn revenues off those resources over 20- to 25-year periods. She also expressed her appreciation for the Trump administration’s land management priorities.
“At once, we have now an administration in place that wishes to alter things and understand the importance of those issues,” Hageman said. “But I don’t know who’s coming after him and neither do you. We’ve to ensure that we’re doing things today that may have long-term impacts when it comes to federal land management.”
Unsurprisingly, Hageman has condemned Biden’s every move, including on energy and environmental policies, painting him a “puppet of the unconventional Left.” She has also accused Cheney of “teaming up” with Biden and other Democrats who she says are waging a “war” against Trump and harming Wyoming’s fossil fuel industry.
As a substitute of protecting the Wyoming energy industry from the unconventional, Green Latest Deal policies of Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress, Liz Cheney spends her time teaming up with them. I promise to at all times put Wyoming’s families, businesses, and interests first. pic.twitter.com/a7LnOnwBXI
— Harriet Hageman – Text WYOMING to 90103 (@HagemanforWY) February 24, 2022
Hageman often knock Cheney for being vice-chair of the Jan. 6 committee but not a member of the House Natural Resources committee, which has oversight over federal land management agencies. That “demonstrates that she doesn’t have our greatest interests at heart, she has her best interests at heart,” Hageman told right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza in a June interview.
But for all Hageman’s discuss Cheney being some type of liberal ally, the incumbent is anything but. She has proven a reliable pro-industry, anti-environment vote, maintaining an abysmal 6% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters. In 2017, she voted in favor of a bill that might have made it easier for Congress to pawn off control over federal lands to states. She also supported Pendley’s nomination to guide the Bureau of Land Management, calling him a “patriot” who “knows as much as anyone about land and resource issues.”
During Trump’s 4 years in office, Cheney voted in step with his position 93% of the time, in accordance with a FiveThirtyEight evaluation.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) speaks in the course of the House select committee to analyze the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing to present previously unseen material and listen to witness testimony on July 12, 2022.
Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Cheney’s campaign declined to reply to HuffPost’s questions on the race, but in an email identified that she serves as a vice chair of the Congressional Western Caucus, an all-Republican body that promotes drilling, mining and other development across the West. Moreover, the e-mail noted she has introduced laws to, amongst other things, reform environmental reviews and to “protect private property rights from potential federal overreach that may very well be a component of the Biden Administration’s 30×30 initiative that might lock up public lands.”
In some ways, Cheney and Hageman are in lockstep of their support for extraction and development on public lands, Dwayne Meadows said. Still, he and DeGroot agree that Hageman poses a much bigger threat to federal lands in Wyoming and across the West.
“If Hageman wins, you will get someone who doesn’t arise and is pragmatic about public lands issues,” Meadows said.
DeGroot added, “It’s quite frankly a alternative between a rock and a tough place.”
Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law on the University of Colorado Boulder, taught Hageman within the Eighties on the University of Wyoming. He told HuffPost he remembers her as “smart, self-confident and well-spoken.” And although he doesn’t remember having an impression of her political beliefs back then, those leanings and her opposition to environmental regulations didn’t come as a surprise.
What did come as a shock was Hageman’s “embrace of Trump’s lies concerning the 2020 election and her overt hostility to Liz Cheney for voting her conscience,” Squillace said.
“I believe Harriet is ambitious and he or she saw a gap when Cheney decided to interrupt from Trump,” he added.
Hageman has toed the party line concerning the 2020 presidential election. During a debate in June, she falsely claimed that there are “serious questions on” results — there aren’t; Biden won — and plugged “2000 Mules,” the discredited documentary by D’Souza that purports to indicate election fraud in several key swing states.
“The Wyoming I lived in back within the Eighties and ’90s was a much more tolerant place… I don’t recall many Republicans back then embracing the positions of the right-wing ideologues””
– Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law on the University of Colorado Boulder
Squillace sees Hageman’s campaign as symbolic of a much bigger political transformation within the state — one he has struggled to make sense of.
“The Wyoming I lived in back within the Eighties and ’90s was a much more tolerant place,” he said. “Sure, it was conservative, but its politics were libertarian, supporting people like [former Republican Sen.] Al Simpson and looking out favorably on matters of private autonomy like abortion rights. I don’t recall many Republicans back then embracing the positions of the right-wing ideologues that appear to have gained favor in Wyoming today.”
If Hageman defeats Cheney — limited available polling has shown Hageman leading by as much as 22 percentage points — it should be less due to her natural resource credentials, and more that she handcuffed herself to Trump and his lies concerning the 2020 election.
That’s not unique amongst Republican candidates in 2022; it’s a trend. But there could also be no race within the country where such a technique is more prone to work.