By Aurora Goodland
The Trump administration downsized two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 2 million acres in December. This act has continued to be protested by Native American groups, environmentalists, organizations, scientists, and citizens, in hopes to reverse and prevent the dismantling of public lands.
Unfortunately, the fate of these lands seems to be in the favor of mining and drilling companies, as hundreds of thousands of acres of the downsized land opened earlier this month to mining claims. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Bears Ears is already open to oil, gas, and uranium mining companies, threatening the monument’s unparalleled wildlands and wildlife, including 18 endangered species.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration has perpetuated the destruction of public lands and the environment—nor does it seem to be the last. As reported on the Center for Biological Diversity’s website, there were three more bills introduced the Wednesday before last that could continue this wrath against public lands. The first bill, S. 1222, “would exempt 8,000 acres of federal land from laws requiring taxpayers to be compensated when federal lands are sold or disposed of.” The second bill, S. 1481, “would give away more than 175,000 acres (273 square miles) of public lands in Alaska to private corporations. It would hand over or trade more than 130,000 acres (180 square miles) of the Tongass National Forest — the nation’s largest national forest — to private timber corporations. Another 50,000 acres of national wildlife refuge lands would be opened to privatization.” The third bill, S. 2206, “would remove protection from nearly 450,000 acres of national forest land in Montana…[opening] the land to private developers for activities such as mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction.” Altogether, these three bills would release 630,000 acres of land to the discretion of private developers.
It is clear that the Trump administration will not be easily persuaded to stop siding with big business and development when it comes to the protection of public lands, despite the overwhelming amount of Americans who place protection of public lands as a top progressive goal for energy and the environment. As found by Hart Research Associates in December 2016, 91 percent of voters believed that the protection and maintenance of national parks, public lands and natural places, as well as the protection of natural places for future generations, was at the very least a “fairly important goal,” not to mention, 76 percent believed it was a “very important goal for federal government.”