Conservation Groups: Fracking, Drilling Would Ruin Public Lands Near Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park
Conservation groups are calling on the Trump administration to cancel plans to lease thousands of acres of federal public lands for oil and gas development near western Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak without fully analyzing environmental or cultural harms.
WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Sierra Club, and Wild Connections, submitted extensive comments Friday on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's proposal to auction off 21,000 acres of public lands in Colorado in September. Of the lands nominated for auction, 18,000 acres are located near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak. In the comments, the groups noted that the Bureau of Land Management conducted little to no analysis on the potential harm from drilling and fracking to Colorado's air, water, night skies, wildlife habitat, cultural resources or the national park.
"The area near Great Sand Dunes National Park is uniquely beautiful and very susceptible to the harms from drilling and fracking," said Becca Fischer, a climate guardian with WildEarth Guardians. "Once BLM leases these lands, it cannot close the door to noise pollution, light pollution, and threats to our clean air and water. Yet, the BLM failed to conduct a meaningful analysis of these impacts."
"This fracking plan would ruin some of Colorado's most scenic, remote and valuable wildlife habitat," said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unfortunately nothing is more important to the Trump administration than fossil fuel industry profits."
Last month, in response to intense public pressure from conservation groups and others, Zinke removed public lands in New Mexico near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park and in Montana near Yellowstone National Park from the auction block based on cultural and environmental concerns.
The pace of public lands approved for leasing by the BLM continues to drastically increase in 2018. In 2017 the BLM auctioned off more than 1 million acres of public lands for fracking in six western states. The BLM's proposed lease sales for the first half of 2018 in those same states already total almost 1 million acres.
Oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a major contributor to global warming in the U.S. Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning. Reports indicate that 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. can be traced back to fossil fuel development from federal public lands and waters.
"We should not be sacrificing these places, the wildlife there, history and opportunities to an outdated vision of energy independence," said Kimberly Pope, Sierra Club's Our Wild America organizer in Colorado. "We have an obligation to leave great natural places for others to experience."
Trump, Zinke to Auction Away 700,000 Acres of Western Public Lands for Fracking https://t.co/FE5d2IsXN6… https://t.co/FLLTKIOG5p— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1513116912.0
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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