What Can I Do to Protect Public Lands?
By Jim Evans, PhD, member of LJDC Executive Board
Today, the federal government controls roughly 640 M acres, or about 17% of the total US land mass of 3.8 B ac. including Alaska.
In this total are national parks, national monuments, national wilderness areas, national forests, national military land, and tracts of private land being studied for inclusion into one of the above.
Make no mistake, “they” are coming after this treasure. “They” see a national government controlled by Republicans as a golden opportunity to mine, drill, hunt, graze, and in many cases, gain title, to vast tracts of Public Land.
Who are “they?” Mostly, “they” are right wing conservatives who see the land owned and administered by the federal government as a land grab from the people. Instead of seeing the federal govt. as the agent charged with holding land in trust for the people, “they” see the federal govt. as perpetrating a giant theft from the people.
It’s a bizarre twist of the meaning of “trust,” and “people,” but it is our reality, and with the Trump Presidency, as with Climate Change, America may be at a tipping point regarding its Public Lands.
Indeed, the Trump presidency very likely will be the most dangerous time since the Harding/Coolidge presidencies in the 1920’s regarding the transference of Public Land to private ownership or private use.
The method by which this will happen is simple. Legislation will be passed to turn federal land over to the states.
What’s wrong with state control?
Nothing, so long as the state is controlled by state legislatures like Hawaii, the West Coast, the North East, and perhaps Colorado and New Mexico. But guess what states like Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, or North Carolina will do with their treasure of federal land? How do you spell “Drill, Baby, Drill.”
Just as “Charter Schools” and “School Choice” have become code words for defunding public education, and ultimately privatizing public schools, turning federal land over to the states is code for corporations and wealthy individuals gaining control over Public Land.
One of TRs greatest achievements is the 1906 American Antiquities Act. This act allows a president to declare a tract of land a National Monument without Congress approving it. And the good news is a subsequent president cannot reverse it.
You know where I’m going with this.
During his presidency, TR protected approximately 230 million acres of America.
In the last days of his Presidency. President Clinton used the Antiquities Act to declare southern Utah a National Monument.
What has President Obama done? Not much.
But there is still time.
So What Can You Do?
Call and write President Obama. Ask him to create National. Monuments under the American Antiquites Act before he leaves office.
Call and write as many environmental groups as you have time for.
Join as many environmental groups as you can afford.
Contribute as much money to these groups as you can afford.
Call and write as many U.S. Senators and Congressman as you have time for.
Call and write Congressman Ryan Zinke.
Congreman Zinke is Montana’s Congressman-at-Large. President elect Trump is nominating Ryan Zinke to be his Secretary of the Interior.
As Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke will be in charge of some 70,000 federal employees who oversee roughly 9.3% of the land mass in the US, or 340 M ac. Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the biggest land holder at 240 M ac. The bulk of this public land is in the West—from the Pacific Ocean including Alaska and Hawaii to the eastern borders of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
There may be no one better in the Trump orbit than Congressman Zinke for this position.
If there is such a thing as a good Republican in today’s America, Ryan Zinke is one. He’s a former grad student of mine at University of San Diego. He received a Master’s degree in our Global Leadership program. I was his adviser. This program is housed in the School of Business and runs parallel to the MBA program. I taught in both programs.
Ryan and I got to be pretty good friends. He’s a former SEAL, and at the time, was the Executive Officer of BUDS Training in Coronado. Ryan liked my approach to leadership ethics and hired me as a paid consultant to the SEAL program. My job was to set up a leadership program for SEAL Instructors.
Ryan also liked what I had to say about American political ideology and TR’s stance on the environment and conservation, especially TRs position on public lands. It turns out that Ryan’s idol is TR, especially the Environmentalist/Conservationist TR, the TR who felt so strongly about America’s land that he considered land to be a resource that needed protection and preservation.
TR worried that in the rush to develop the U.S., Americans could very well exhaust their abundance, and in effect, kill the goose. On this point, TR wrote:
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. 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.
In closing, as President, TR created the United States Forest Service (USFS) thereby establishing 150 national forests. During his Presidency, TR also created 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.
Since TR, America’s Public Lands have more than doubled. Let’s not give any of these lands up, especially to those who would despoil them.