December 16th, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
“The President Stole Your Land. In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.” ~ Patagonia Inc.
Now more than ever, we need to protect our natural spaces — if for nothing else than the fact that they represent the last bastion of sanity in a world gone utterly mad. Study after study has proven beyond a doubt that nature is necessary for a sound mind, body and soul — not to mention healthy communities and nations. With that in mind, many of us are watching in horror as the very thing that can redeem humanity is ripped to shreds by an administration hell-bent on squeezing every last drop of profit out of natural spaces.
This latest environmental assault by the White House — reducing the size of Bear Ears National Monument (by 45%) and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (by more than 80%) — is extremely disturbing. Once we set such a precedent, it opens the door to shrink, if not destroy completely, other natural spaces. Right on cue, Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has recently released a hit list of public lands that are under serious threat of being dismantled.
And for what? So America can have ‘energy independence’ with fossil fuels? I’m not sure which is more astounding, the blatant attack on our public lands or the fact that old men in suits can’t think beyond fossil fuels for our energy requirements. Where is the famous American ingenuity and forward thinking when we need it?
Public Land Suffers as Zinke Bows Before Big Business
Having lived in Montana for over five years, when Ryan Zinke was appointed Secretary of the Interior from his previous position as state Congressman for Montana, there was a ray of hope that he would take positive strides in preserving natural spaces. After all, Montana is known for its pristine and spectacular nature, drawing millions each year to visit its national and state parks. You would think someone born and raised in such an outdoor mecca — in Whitefish, no less, the gateway to Glacier National Park — Zinke would have a certain sensibility about protecting natural places in his own home state and beyond. He’s even the self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt Guy”.
Big shoes to fill, no doubt, since President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most heroic land conservationists of all time. In 1906, he signed into law the Antiquities Act that grants presidents the authority to protect historically, culturally, and naturally significant federal lands that were under immediate risk of destruction. Roosevelt designated a total of 18 monuments and protected 230 million acres of land for the American public during his time in office. He gave us 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves and five national parks.
“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources,” he wrote. “But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”
Needless to say, Roosevelt was a forward thinker. Unlike what we are seeing with the current White House administration, which is on a war path to dismantle the Antiquities Act and destroy Roosevelt’s national monument legacy, again in the name of corporate profit and at the expense of the people.
Roosevelt had a balanced view on preserving land, realizing that it should also be managed for various uses like mining, timber and energy extraction to give it value, but not at the expense of harming the land for future generations.
“I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us,” he said.
In short, wise management of public lands is simply good business. Something Ryan Zinke seems to have forgotten. In the past, when The Department of the Interior has approached the stewardship of our natural spaces in a sound and balanced manner, it contributes the following to the U.S. economy:
“Over $25 billion in consumer spending, $220 billion in energy production, and $60 billion in water storage and delivery. Its lands directly support 1.7 million jobs. And that’s before you get to the outdoor recreation industry, which relies on public lands for its $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million American jobs.” [source]
The key word here is balance between profit and protection. Unfortunately, Zinke’s Interior Department has shown itself to be unbalanced in its agenda — staffing the office with those from the oil and gas industry, while his deputy is a former oil lobbyist. The DOI has been working hard to significantly reduce protections to public lands and loosening safety rules put into place after disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The presidential order issued by Obama to block coal mining on public lands has also been reversed.
Moreover, Wes Siler of Outside Magazine reports:
“Enforcement of a methane emissions regulation for oil and gas wells has been delayed. Zinke is looking at combining the office that collects oil and gas revenue, with the office that regulates that industry’s safety and environmental regulations. Zinke is firing people for believing in the science of climate change.”
Far from being a new champion of conservation and balance, “Zinke has been a disappointment,” says Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
- http://www.georgewright.org/313mcmanamon.pdf [PDF]
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