The longer this administration drags on, the more endangered our public lands become. We may never be able to repair some of the damage – especially not if Trump's Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zimke, has his way.
Since Trump and Zinke eviscerated Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, they've been quite busy tearing apart our national parks. Almost before the ink dried on that deal, emboldened Republicans in the Utah legislature introduced a despicable bill that's basically a land grab. It would allow local political cabals to seize control of public lands, and turn them over to hunters and ranchers to the detriment of us all. The damage caused by grazing especially may be something those lands would never recover from. And that's just the beginning of what it would allow them to do.
They know they don't have to worry about the current administration trying to preserve those public lands. So they're anxious to take all they can get while the taking's good.
Earlier this month, Trump released his idea of a budget. We'll explore the horrors contained within soon, but today, we're going to focus on the swath of destruction it proposes to cut through the National Park Service. Almost two thousand park rangers would find their jobs permanently cut. 7% of the NPS budget would be slashed. And funds used to protect lands within national park boundaries would be gutted, while the Secretary of the Interior would be free to authorize oil and gas pipelines to cross public lands, without a single glance of oversight from Congress.
If you've gotten the impression the Trump Administration wants the National Park Service to die, you're not far wrong. They certainly don't want it to survive in its current incarnation.
Meanwhile, Zinke has a flag flown to himself while he merrily goes about tearing down the Department of the Interior and remaking it in his grimy and greedy image. He complains about disloyalty within the ranks while he takes actions that are fundamentally opposed to everything the Department of the Interior is supposed to do for our country. And it seems the only shores he's interested in protecting are the ones fronting his boss's Florida resort.
Zinke treated the members of the National Park Service Advisory Panel so abysmally that ten out of twelve of them resigned in a mass demonstration of disgust.
In a letter to the secretary on Monday, departing board chairman Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, wrote that he and eight other members "have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law." All of the signatories, who serve as unpaid volunteers, had terms set to expire in May.,
"We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda," Knowles wrote. "I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success.
On Wednesday, Carolyn "Carrie" Hessler Radelet, the chief executive of Project Concern International, submitted a separate resignation letter. "[F]rom all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside," wrote Radelet, whose term was not set to expire until 2021. "I hope that future actions of the Department of Interior demonstrate that this is not the case."
Oil and gas drilling would be allowed off the coasts of Oregon and Washington for the first time under a proposal released Thursday by the Trump administration.
New leases also would be offered in California for the first time since 1984.
The five-year plan is the largest expansion of offshore drilling in U.S. history, making 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf available for exploration and development.
It would reverse a decades-long ban that protects the West Coast from oil and gas drilling and open drilling in new areas of the Arctic, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Even Mount St. Helens isn't safe – the Forest Service is allowing a Canadian company to begin exploratory drilling near Goat Mountain, within the blast zone from the May 1980 eruption. If the Bureau of Land Management approves of the plan, this priceless American wilderness will be exploited by foreign companies. So that'll be just great.
There is no fair and balanced way of viewing this administration. The reality is that we'll be cleaning up the damage to our lands and institutions for generations. We will lose things that we will never be able to replace if we don't resist. Contact your member of Congress today. Tell them to protect our national parks.