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Public Lands Dwindle Under Trump Administration

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
President Donald Trump’s new administration has taken a strong stance against environmental protection by enacting executive orders and encouraging Congress to push certain bills that will reduce protection for public lands.

The Trump administration made its deprioritization of public lands more prominent in Trump’s recent budget proposal, which significantly lowered funding toward environmental protection and public land maintenance, while increasing funding for other structures (like military spending).

“There is absolutely no economic justification for pulling the rug out from ongoing collaborative local, state and federal efforts aimed at supporting parks, trails and other outdoor recreation needs, all of which sustain a burgeoning $646 billion economy that supports 6.1 million American jobs,” says Will Rogers of The Huffington Post.

One specific proposed budget cut targets “funds for land protection through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most effective conservation program,” says Rogers. “The Trump plan will harm our national parks.”

Rollbacks of Obama-era public land protection laws have already been enacted. Laws and regulations meant to keep oil and natural gas drilling companies from disturbing the ecosystems of public lands and National Parks have been deemed unnecessary by Trump’s administration.

The Interior Department issued a ruling in March 2015 that increased protection of public lands from interference from fracking. This was “the first major federal regulation of fracking, the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination and even earthquakes,” says The Associated Press.

This rule has since been terminated by Trump, which Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, calls “disturbing” and says it "highlights Trump's desire to leave our beautiful public lands utterly unprotected from oil industry exploitation."

Along with the President’s proposed budget cuts that would slash funding for public land protection and maintenance, Congress has proposed a number of bills that would drastically reduce the environmental purity of some of the United States’ most treasured natural territories.

According to Monte Burke of Forbes magazine, Arizona Rep., Paul Gosar (R), introduced H.J. Res. 46, which would encourage oil and natural gas companies to drill in National Parks.

Alaska Sen., Lisa Murkwoski (R), and Wyoming Rep., Liz Cheney, introduced a Congressional Review Act of “Planning 2.0” that would overturn a ruling that gives the public ample say in how public lands are managed.

Utah Rep., Jason Chaffetz (R), pushed H.R. 621, which aimed to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands to private investors. Chaffetz received ample pushback from his proposal and has since removed his bill from consideration.

“The passage of any of these bills would restrict access and the amount of acreage available to the nation’s sportsmen. Various sportsmen’s groups—like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, and the Wilderness Society—have already expressed their opposition to the proposed bills,” says Burke.

Proposed bills and budget cuts that aim to sell or defund public lands will undermine the work of Presidents over the past 100 years.

President Theodore Roosevelt created the country’s first National Parks during his administration (1901-1909). According to the White House Historical Association, “Roosevelt increased natural forest lands from 43 million to 194 million acres,” including the dedication of National Parks like Crater Lake in Oregon and Mesa Verde in Colorado.

President Woodrow Wilson officially established the National Park Service in 1916, further instilling an attitude of adventure and environmental appreciation within Americans.

Now, even the Pentagon recognizes the necessity to protect our environment. United States Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, said in a written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

In a written testimony from ProPublica, Mattis stated that he believes that climate change poses a clear and direct threat to U.S. national security.

These proposed bills and executive orders that aim to remove protection for public lands are short-term “economic fixes” with both short- and long-term effects on the environment that the outdoor community cherishes. The weight of the $646 billion outdoor industry has potential to sway public policy with a massive impact.

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Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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