Letter: Protection of public lands truly makes America great
Although defeated in the last election, Donald Trump’s toxic legacy lives on, one example being his random, destructive pull-backs of protections on three of America’s most revered national monuments: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. Beyond their ecological value, these areas are sacred threads in the fabric of Indigenous cultures. Protection of these public lands is an element of America’s greatness.
Before leaving office, the Trump administration held a bargain basement sale on oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Republican Congress having lifted ANWR protections in their 2017 Tax Act. Thanks to the efforts of public action groups, “Big Oil” was dissuaded from bidding on these leases. The six largest financial institutions in the U.S. and Canada declined to finance drilling there due to risks to their reputations and the meager chance of profitability. In an attempt to prop up Alaska’s oil and gas economy, that state bought almost half of the leases, a bit of a desperate act.
Bears Ears National Monument was shrunk 85% by the Trump administration, and Grand Staircase-Escalante by half to allow for coal mining and oil and gas drilling. One commenter on the sale observed that if there were actually fossil fuels of much value in those areas they would have been developed long ago. The flawed environmental analysis, rejection of scientific and public input, and lack of any meaningful safeguards were typical of the lifting of protections on public lands during the irresponsible Trump administration.
The wildfires in Colorado last summer have given us just a taste of what our future will be if we continue to depend on fossil fuels as our primary sources of energy. Continuing to drill and mine fossil fuels on ecologically intact and culturally important public lands will move us more quickly down the road toward irreversible catastrophic climate disruption, in ways that we can’t even imagine. This is a matter of not only the preservation of environmentally and culturally valuable ecosystems but also of the preservation of life and civilization as we’ve know it.
In order to protect these public lands and national monuments and assure they aren’t developed for short-term profit, there needs to be protective legislation, not simply executive orders. Contact Rep. Lauren Boebert (202-225-4761) and Sens. Michael Bennet (202-224-5852) and John Hickenlooper (202-224-5941) to ask for increased protection on public lands.
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