Department of the Interior to Give Away Protected Public Lands
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proved that he is fully in lockstep with both Congress and President Trump, as he plans for formal release of even more public lands for the benefit of corporations.
It is yet another move by President Trump and his puppets to prove they are better than former President Barack Obama, and that they continue in their relentless quest to help America’s rich become even richer.
Back in April, in one of the quieter moves by President Donald Trump, twenty-seven monuments were put under review. According to Trump, those regions which had been set aside for protection by Obama were just one “massive federal land grab”. In typical Trump as well as Republican fashion, however, the solution is to replace that with yet another “massive federal land grab”. This time, instead of it being for the public, the new “massive federal land grab” will primarily be for the benefit of the oil industry.
Zinke’s recommendations, which have mostly not been released to the public, were announced with the statement that he had no intention of eliminating any past monuments, specific wilderness or ocean areas from the list. There would be some adjustments of potential boundaries of the protected areas, as well as investigation of the possibility of allowing drilling, mining, or other industries on the protected lands.
The only area Zinke has said so far would see changes is the Bear’s Ears monument in Utah. He had previously said publicly that it would be reduced in size. That monument was set aside on 2,100 square miles on sacred tribal land. The tribal coalition that fought to get it approved is going to go to battle if the monument space or rules for its use are changed in any way.
Representing the other side of this case is Utah Republican State Representative Mike Noel, who feels the rollback of boundaries and broadening of use of the currently-protected lands is warranted. He even offered as a good compromise that maybe tourism on the lands could itself be protected, but at the same time allow for all those things people had been doing for generations like logging, livestock grazing and oil and gas drilling.
That sort of description itself shows little respect for the Native Americans' original plea to protect the lands as sacred. How lands can be treated as sacred when the government might allow them to be ripped up, chewed on, and chopped down, all in the name of American commerce, is hard to fathom.
Noel did not stop there, however, stating that, in a recent public statement, “The eco-tourists basically say, ‘Throw out the rubes and the locals and get rid of the public lands for any renewable resource such as timber harvesting and even some mineral production’.” He went on to call that “a very selfish attitude”.
Apparently, Noel does not quite ‘get’ what it means for lands to be designated as protected or considered sacred to the tribes. But then neither does Donald Trump or Interior Secretary Zinke, based on their statements on these matters.
Zinke, a former Montana congressman, tried to back up his vow to protect the lands – more or less – by stating he wants to protect tribal interests. Then again, he also wants public access for things like hunting, fishing or grazing. He also launched this study of what boundaries to cut and use rights to change, based on a belief by the Executive Branch that the 1906 Antiquities Act which made them possible had been abused by Presidents. That abuse allegedly has overly restricted their use for mining, timber-cutting and fossil fuel exploration.
President Trump has been far clearer about this, vowing to open many of these public lands to corporate use for a variety of purposes.
What is under review include locations such as the Cascade Sikiyou, a 156-square-mile location where three mountain ranges come together in Oregon; the Katahdin Valley Woods and Waters of forest in northern Maine, encompassing 136 square miles; and the Grand Staircase-escalante monument in the Utah desert, a location with magnificent canyons, natural arches and archaeological sites. Marine monuments covering over 340,000 square miles of protected area are also up for discussion as part of Zinke’s current review.
Zinke has not made all announcements publicly on these items yet, but did say previously that no changes would be made at 6 of the 27 monuments under discussion, in Idaho, Arizona, Washington and California.
Conservationists reacted quickly, sounding an alarm for what many feel is just the beginning of a major realignment of priorities for protecting American’s lands from damage and looting by corporations. The groups also claim that the law may have allowed Presidents to designate the lands and that in changing protections only the U.S. Congress has the power to change either their boundaries or their use.
Conservative legal experts say the law favors the current White House and Cabinet position on the issue, which is that the Executive Branch has complete say in reallocating the use and boundaries for all these monuments.
Announcements are expected soon regarding which of Zinke’s recommendations may come to pass as the new ‘law of the land’ under President Trump. All that is currently clear is that Bear’s Ears Monument is going to see some changes, and that other former protected lands are also going to see some major changes. It is a difficult new era where corporate will is clearly in power, when it comes to protection of our natural resources.
As in other situations regarding Trump’s edicts, now is the time for citizens to make their voices heard on these matters, and help back those who will fight to protect not just these lands – but others, still unnamed, but likely to be carved out by Trump and Zinke in the future.
Some counter-action is clearly needed now to stop all this. Without that, the American public might just wake up one morning finding that the only public land left standing has the carved face of Donald Trump staring down at us from inside.