Trump's first year of presidency is coming to a close. We knew going in that he was going to be a disaster for science, but maybe some of us still hoped he wouldn't be too disastrous. But the actions he has taken, the people he has appointed, and the rapacious companies and politicians he has emboldened have proved that hope was in vain. As we close out 2017, here are just a few of the countless ways the Trump administration has been a complete disaster for science and our public lands. It's in no particular order because, frankly, it's too depressing to linger on the damage long enough to compare.
Some of you may remember that I'm the daughter of a coal miner. One of the things my dad's company was required to do was clean up after themselves. Once mining operations were done, they had to leave the land as pristine as they'd found it, if not even cleaner. They'd have environmentalists out on the regular to keep an eye on things. Believe me, this isn't money coal companies want to spend. It's much cheaper to rip want you want out of the land and then abandon it. But regulations meant my dad's company wasn't allowed to do that.
New Obama-era rules meant other mining industries would, like my dad's employer, have to set aside funds for cleaning up after themselves. They'd no longer be able to extract all the riches and then claim there was no money left for remediation, leaving the state and federal agencies to foot the bill.
Now they don't have to set aside money to clean up their operations. This is going to be utterly disastrous for our waterways, our air, and our lands.
Betsy DeVos has been a nearly unmitigated disaster for public education. We'll have a very special feature on her within the next few days: the list of her many, many horrid acts is far too long to include here.
While grad students dodged a bullet at the last minute, the Republican tax bill that Trump signed mandates oil drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That's a devastating combo punch: drilling will not only ruin lands that are crucial to animals and people alike, but also contribute to the global warming that is baking our planet alive.
Ryan Zinke's more interested in getting in bed with industry than protecting our public lands. He's also keen on slashing funds and staff from the very agencies he's sworn to serve.
Zinke recommended, and Trump delivered, carving Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments down to a shadow of their former selves. Goodbye, priceless cultural heritage. Goodbye, goodwill towards Native American tribes. Goodbye, pristine wilderness. Too much of it is now up for grabs by industries that will devastate it.
Do you think what Trump, his interior secretary, and the Republicans at large have done to our public lands is bad enough already? Utah rep Rob Bishop wants to destroy even more. His “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” is better termed the "No More Parks Act." You know that power that presidents have had that protected priceless lands like the Grand Canyon? Yeah. This bill would do away with all that. If you had any hopes of preserving the best of America for your kids and grandkids, well, the Republicans and the Trump administration aim to take it away from you.
From muzzling the National Park Service, to silencing NPS climate change experts, to overturning sensible NPS regulations, it's been one heck of a harsh summer.
Zinke's new budget rules meant a drastic 60% drop in attendance for USGS scientists at the American Geophysical Union conference this year. Some of them were denied the funds to attend just days before they were supposed to leave. The Geological Society of America's annual meeting saw a drop of roughly 40%. These meetings are incredibly important for geoscientists. These are professional meetings, not happy fun play times. But the Trump admin doesn't care if America falls behind. And I'm pretty sure they only care about geologists who can find them more mineral, gas, and oil reserves to exploit, preferably within a national monument.
If I sound bitter, people, it's because i am. We always knew this would be bad. We've successfully beaten back some of the worst of what the administration and Republicans have tried to do. But the damage to America's public lands and her sciences has been vast, and we won't know the full cost until it's too late.
We need to do everything in our power to turn back this tide in 2018. Be ready. Resist.