Conservation Perfidy

Conservation Perfidy
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The Republican Party has launched a three-pronged assault on federal conservation lands, the very kind that Donald Trump on the campaign trail had pledged to protect. Furthermore, it is an onslaught of extensive geographical distribution.

In the far north, the GOP has moved to bring oil drilling to the ecological marvel that is the 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).To do so, the party inserted a provision in the Senate tax reform bill. If successful, it is a disastrous scenario that the environmental community effectively had foiled for decades.

In the western half of the country (e.g. Utah Oregon, and Nevada), President Trump seeks major shrinkage in the size (and environmental protection) of national monuments created primarily by his democratic predecessors under the auspices of the Antiquities Act. This law gives presidents unilateral authority to make such designations. It should be noted that Trump’s monument reductions were largely at the behest of extractive industries and their local politician allies.

Then there is the United States-Mexico border. The congressional Republican majority has requested $1.6 billion in the homeland Security bill for construction of Trump’s border wall that would run roughshod over environmental protections.

Several themes weave through this GOP assault on public conservation lands. There is the Republican obsession, especially on Trump’s part, to erase as much of President Obama’s legacy as possible. Since Obama was generous with his set asides of federal lands for conservation purposes, they have become a prime target for Trump.

In addition, motivation for the GOP devaluation of our nation’s wilderness heritage can be traced to corporate donors’ entrepreneurial ambitions and the Right Wing’s partisan political correctness.

The GOP would defile ANWR’s pristine coastal plain and its extraordinary biodiversity with a network of roads and pipelines to serve oil drilling operations. Ironically, there is some question whether ANWR oil would be economically recoverable, and if so, where it would end up (overseas, perhaps?).

Trump’s authority for reversing his predecessors’ national monument designations is much in doubt since the law is silent on White House retraction authority. Trump’s rationale for unraveling monuments’ federal size and protection is equally suspect. He contends that that locals living next to the national monuments don’t have adequate access and that jurisdiction should be transferred to the states. But the monuments’ resources are hardly locked up. Subject to environmental restrictions, the federal lands are accessible equally to all Americans as well they should be since we all hold title. That said, locals still have an advantage. Proximity gives them easier access than most of their countrymen who are distant yet obliged (like us all) to have some of their taxpayer dollars channeled to support national monument maintenance.

On the U.S.-Mexican border, the Republican Party is requesting a waiver of environmental laws, supposedly in order to expedite construction of Trump’s infamous wall. Vulnerable to disruption are six national wildlife refuges as well as half a dozen national parks within a 100 miles of the border. Scientists have identified 15 endangered species that live within 150 feet of this very same border. If it means anything, federal border agents say environmental laws are not undermining homeland security.

Riding to the rescue, environmental and Native American groups are gearing up to challenge in court and the halls of Congress these raids on public lands.

As for the Republican Party, its definition of “conservation” seems to revolve more around reserving space for oil rigs, livestock grazing, and border barriers than preservation of our planet’s natural wonders.


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