Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Public lands - Trump version of Gone in 60 Seconds

That’s about how long it took Trump to steal public lands for use by special interests. And his Interior Secretary redefines “special interests”. I’ll bet you didn’t know that YOU are a “special interest.”

Trump Admin makes an odd argument while giving away federal land reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

Presidents have quite a bit of federal authority when it comes to creating national monuments, and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama put that power to use in Utah, creating federal protections for millions of acres of public land.

Donald Trump announced yesterday he’s undoing some of those protections, shrinking the Bears Ears monument in Utah from 1.3 million acres to about 220,000 acres of federally protected land, and reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante from 1.9 million acres to a little over 1 million acres.

That’s nearly 2 million acres of protected public land that the Republican president decided to give away yesterday. One of Trump’s cabinet secretaries defended the move with a curious talking point.

Before the ceremony, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told The Salt Lake Tribune “The president is delivering on his campaign promise to give the state and local communities a voice, which I think is absolutely important. *Public lands are for public use and not for special interests.*”

We live in a time of need for perpetual translation of the Orwellian corruption of our own language. Scriber’s translation of Zinke’s zinger: Public lands are for special interests and not for public use. Benen would agree.

It seemed possible that Zinke misspoke, but he used identical language yesterday in a separate interview: “Public land is for public use and not special interests.”

I realize when it comes to the Trump administration, some up-is-down rhetoric is to be expected, but even by 2017 standards, this is disorienting.

Note, for example, that during the president’s speech yesterday while unveiling the new federal policy, Trump complained about “harmful and unnecessary restrictions” on, among other things, “responsible economic development.” Indeed, Reuters reported in April that when Trump signed an executive order earlier this year to allow national monument designations to be rescinded or reduced, the White House was pushing “to open up more federal land to drilling, mining and other development.”

There it is. Trump is robbing the public of public lands in order to give breaks to the fossil fool industry.

”The President Stole Your Land”

But that may not be the final word. Outdoor recreation companies are fighting back reports the Washington Post in ‘The President Stole Your Land’: Patagonia, REI blast Trump on national monument rollbacks.

Anyone who visited Patagonia’s website on Monday night in search of a warm winter fleece or a pair of snow pants was in for a surprise. Replacing the usual shopping choices were giant white letters on a black background offering a stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

The message continued in smaller letters: “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’s move was part of an ongoing fight in the West, one the company and the outdoor recreation industry generally has been waging against exploitation of the lands for fossil fuel, development and cattle grazing.

REI, another recreational gear company, devoted part of its homepage to a more modest protest. “Despite the loss of millions of acres of protected lands this week,” the company said, “REI will continue to advocate for the places we all love.”

The companies, as well as the entire outdoor recreation industry, are allied with Indian tribes, for whom some of the lands are sacred, as well as with conservationists.

Their lawsuits began flying as soon as the decision was announced.

One came from a coalition of five tribes — Hopi, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Ute Indian.

Separately, a coalition of 10 conservation groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Trust, filed a lawsuit against Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed through the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice. The suit, which is likely to provoke a prolonged court battle, claims Trump cannot legally revoke the land’s monument status.

Trump blows smoke

Trump said he reduced the monuments because “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

That is not and never was the issue. The issue as revealed by the pushback from various conservation interests is preservation of public lands vs. commercial exploitation of them.

Peter Metcalf, founder of Black Diamond Equipment and an environmental activist, called the move “a rape and pillage approach.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, he called it a “real tragedy, to tear up this place that is rich with dinosaur bones, cultural antiquities and is a sportsman’s paradise. That’s not the best use of the land.”

Patagonia’s message included illustrations showing what part of the two monuments will no longer be protected and facts about protected lands, noting that “90 percent of U.S. public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and development; only 10 percent are protected for recreation, conservation and wildlife.”

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard told CNN he too plans to sue the president.

“I’m going to sue him,” Chouinard said. “It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. I think it’s a shame that only 4% of American lands are national parks. Costa Rica’s got 10%. Chile will now have way more parks than we have. We need more, not less. This government is evil and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win.”

At the very least we all can do some small thing to support preservation of national monuments. Shop REI. Wear Patagonia.

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