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By Transition 2017 -, CC BY 4.0,

The Coming Public Lands Existential Crisis


Last updated November 21st, 2016

Although there are plenty of things still to be worked out, we know the next four years are going to be some of the most difficult years CalWild and other conservationists have ever faced. We are quickly strategizing and enlisting support. Please consider taking action to push President Obama to expand several National Monuments before he leaves office and help us start this long fight with strength by donating today.

For years, this anti-public lands sentiment has taken hold in certain corners of the U.S. only to be blocked at one place or another. Congressional leaders have been pushing a radical anti-conservation agenda for years. They have only been waiting for the right opportunity to put it into law. Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Robert Bishop are leaders of the Public Lands Initiative, which despite it’s innocuous sounding name undermines Utah’s conservation victories, makes next to impossible to protect other deserving lands and would set a dangerous precedent in other states. At CalWild, we work closely with groups not historically associated with the conservation movement and know what that should look like. This wasn’t it. The bill that resulted from their efforts disregards the concerns of environmentalists. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance had a great description on why the PLI is a disaster for Utah’s public lands.

Ultimately, these ideas are the ones promoted by the old Sagebrush Rebellion, the American Lands Council, and more infamously the Bundys and their followers. The bad news is that in the evolution of these ideas from Sagebrush Rebellion to the Bundys the ideas have become more extreme and at the same time more maintstreamed. The Republican platform as designated at the convention even says clearly and unequivocally that they are trying to open up public lands to extractive industries including oil and gas, and mining. Below are a few excerpts from the platform that pertain to CalWild’s work:

…ranching on public lands must be fostered, developed, and encouraged. This includes providing for an abundant water supply for America’s farmers, ranchers, and their communities.

When timber is managed properly, the renewable crops will result in fewer wildfires and, at the same time, produce jobs in the timber industry for countless families. We believe in promoting active, sustainable management of our forests and that states can best manage our forests to improve forest health and keep communities safe.

That is why we support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to (oil and gas) exploration and responsible production…

Congress should give authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federally controlled public lands within their respective borders.

Permitting for a safe, non-polluting hydroelectric facility, even one that is being relicensed, can take many years because of the current President’s hostility to dams.

We support the enactment of policies to increase domestic energy production, including production on public lands…

The federal government owns or controls over 640 million acres of land in the United States, most of which is in the West… It is absurd to think that all that acreage must remain under the absentee ownership or management of official Washington. Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states.

There is certainly a need to protect certain species threatened worldwide with extinction. However, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should not include species such as gray wolves and other species if these species exist elsewhere in healthy numbers in another state or country.

As with President Obama, there is always the possibility that the Administration could veto or block most or all of the radical agenda as laid out in the Republican platform. For those who are taking a wait and see approach, we didn’t have to wait long to see exactly where the Trump Administration was going to stand. They will be against everything for which we’ve fought for fear that conservation is becoming more of a consensus.

The list of candidates for Department of Interior (which oversees the National Parks and Bureau of Land Management) and Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) are as anti-environmentalists as you can possibly imagine. We highlight a number of the candidates below:*

Candidates for Interior Secretary

Sarah Palin – Former Alaskan Governor, Vice Presidential Nominee, and promoter of “Drill, Baby, Drill”

Forrest Lucas – Co-founder of Lucas Oil and anti-animal rights activist

Harold Hamm – Oklahoma oil magnate and leading fracking advocate

Candidates for Agriculture Secretary 

Forrest Lucas, again

Rep. Tim Huelskamp – Outgoing  Kansas Representative

Sid Miller – Texas Agriculture Commissioner

Sam Brownback – Kansas Governor running his own conservative “experiment” in Kansas

*Neither of these are complete lists

We know that even as things shake out between now and inauguration there are two things we can say with relative certainty: 1) the next few months are the last we’ll have in a long time to protect and expand new public land, and 2) the fight we’ll have for the next four years will truly difficult. Again, please help us prepare by donating to CalWild today.

CalWild has weathered many administrations who were unkind to the health of public lands, waters, and wildlife – and we’ve still managed to protect millions of acres. Help us make sure this administration has a movement to contend with if and when they come to undo our myriad accomplishments.