Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

How to Counter Trump’s Disastrous Attack on Our Public Lands

Politics
Plateau Creek near De Beque, Colorado, where land has been leased for oil and gas production. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

By Randi Spivak

Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.


What's at stake are 670 million acres of forests, canyons, rivers, wetlands, mountains and high deserts. Native American sacred sites. Ancient migratory pronghorn paths and towering temperate rainforests. Pristine streams that feed wild salmon and endangered pikeminnow. Prehistoric artifacts.

These lands are being plundered at a terrifying rate under the Trump administration, which has kicked the door open and let in profiteers to mine, drill, frack, log and bulldoze. Along the way, it's worsening the climate crisis, endangering wildlife and divesting our natural inheritance to fatten the dividends for massive corporations.

Just this week, Trump launched a massive attack on imperiled wildlife, finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that could lead to extinction for hundreds of animal and plant species. The changes, which will make it harder to protect wildlife habitat from development, come in the face of urgent scientific warnings that humans have driven up to 1 million species worldwide to the brink of extinction.

Earlier this month, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (a former oil and mining industry lobbyist) installed William Perry Pendley as acting deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management. Under Pendley, who has made it his life's work to oppose federal authority over public lands, the ongoing fire sale of our children's endowment is likely to worsen.

And last month, Trump's Bureau of Land Management moved to allow fracking on millions of acres in Colorado―potentially tripling greenhouse gas emissions in a state that's trying to scale back climate pollution―and his Forest Service announced plans to exempt large-scale logging projects in national forests from public and environmental review.

Sadly, it gets worse.

Trump also has relaunched proposals for three massive copper mines that had been idled during the Obama administration and would have disastrous consequences for wilderness, wildlife and water: Twin Metals near Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; Rosemont in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona; and Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay, at the headwaters of the world's most productive wild sockeye salmon fishery.

So far the Trump administration has leased more than 3.4 million acres of public land in the lower 48 states for fracking and drilling, saddling future generations with the potential of nearly 600 million more tons of greenhouse gas pollution.

All of this comes as scientific climate reports carry dark warnings that our planet is teetering on the breaking point and the world is becoming desperate for urgent action to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

The most recent report, from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concludes that the land will be unable to sustain humanity because of being destroyed and manipulated by deforestation, industrial agriculture, and other development.

Among other things, scientists recommend that we restore ecosystems and stop burning fossil fuels to avoid "irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements."

But here's the good news: We can start addressing climate change right here and now, by ending new oil and gas leasing on our public lands.

Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year.

Current laws give Congress and presidents authority to end new federal fossil fuel leasing. Hundreds of organizations — including the Center for Biological Diversity, the organization where I work—have already petitioned the federal government to end new onshore and offshore leasing, and the proposal is endorsed by several presidential candidates.

And more good news: With increasing frequency, courts have been rejecting the efforts of Trump's Interior Department to deny or minimize the climate consequences of its actions, including decisions for more oil and gas extraction on public lands.

These cases are part of a growing pattern of judicial rulings that say federal agencies must do additional environmental review to weigh climate impacts before these projects can move forward.

Even in these terribly divisive times, there's broad agreement that preserving landscapes for wildlife and future generations is the wise and right thing to do. The fate of the planet depends on it.

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A sand tiger shark swims over the USS Tarpon in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Tane Casserley / NOAA

By John R. Platt

Here at The Revelator, we love a good shark story.

The problem is, there aren't all that many good shark stories. According to recent research, sharks and their relatives represent one of the world's most imperiled groups of species. Of the more than 1,250 known species of sharks, skates, rays and chimeras — collectively known as chondrichthyan fishes — at least a quarter are threatened with extinction.

Read More Show Less
The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less
Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less
A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less