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15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America's Public Lands
The U.S. holds more than 600 million acres of stunning public lands in trust for the American public. These beloved places, ranging from the granite spires of the Black Hills National Forest to the mystical Mojave National Preserve, are home to diverse native wildlife, inspire wonder in people from around the world who visit them and provide clean air, clean water and unsurpassed recreation opportunities to our communities.
Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America's public lands and only want more.
In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development.
The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of "Public Lands Enemies" that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
In bending to private industry interest, these lawmakers actively spurn the majority of American voters, including in their states, who polls have shown want to see public hands left in public lands and preserved for future generations.
With the West already losing to development one football field's worth of natural areas every two and a half minutes, these shared lands are more important than ever. At the start of the 115th Congress, we want to bring attention to these Public Lands Enemies and their plans to seize and privatize public lands. Everyone who cares about our national forests, wildlife refuges, deserts, national parks, national monuments, wild rivers, wilderness and areas of historic, scientific and cultural significance needs to be watching these elected officials vigilantly and opposing their actions every step of the way.
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Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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