Trump invokes Teddy Roosevelt, says he'll protect public lands...then appoints anti-conservation EPA head

Photo by Gage Skidmore, flickr.

President-elect Trump's alarming EPA choice undermines recent pro-conservation remarks.

Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, an enemy of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions who has aligned himself with oil and gas companies, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—one day after paying lip-service to conservation. 

At a speech in North Carolina, President-elect Trump claimed his administration will honor the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt and "conserve and protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation including protecting lands," according to E&E News (sub req). 

However, he swiftly undermined that statement with an EPA administrator choice who has repeatedly sued his presumptive agencymaintains close ties with corporate interests and sowed doubt about the well-established science behind manmade climate change. Without concerted regulatory efforts, climate change will cause irreparable harm to our public lands—the very same "beautiful natural resources" Trump claims to value. 

More important than ever to watch Trump nominees  

In the coming days, President-elect Trump is expected to pick a nominee for Secretary of the Interior as well. But given the selection of Pruitt, we are neither optimistic about that choice, nor the chances of Trump honoring Theodore Roosevelt's legacy beyond just giving rousing speeches. 

We are on high alert. No matter who President-elect Trump's Interior nominee is, we will ask you to stand with us and hold them and other cabinet nominees accountable. This will start by making sure that senators ask them tough, meaningful questions during their confirmation hearings, getting them on the record about the importance of public lands and what we must do to safeguard them for future generations.  

Team Trump's anti-conservation rhetoric deeply disturbing 

This is not the first time the president-elect and his surrogates have said they support public lands and recognize the need to keep them public. But words are clearly not enough. The "public land takeover" agenda is poised to gain momentum in Congress, and it is our job to make sure the president-elect won't be a part of it—that when he said "we have to be great stewards of this land" back in January 2016, it actually meant something, and that when he claimed he will emulate perhaps our greatest-ever conservationist president, he understood what that entailed. 

The nomination of Pruitt is a big disappointment, and the president-elect's recent speech notwithstanding, it slots into a broader pattern of troubling Team Trump rhetoric. President-elect Trump has repeatedly said he does not "believe" in climate change, suggested he may "cut" the Environmental Protection Agency and made it clear that his energy agenda will heavily prioritize fossil fuels. These views are not compatible with a promise to "conserve and protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation." 

While he has gone on the record as wanting to keep public lands in public hands, behind closed doors, President-elect Trump has reportedly expressed support for the radical campaign to privatize public lands. A member of his transition team has even suggested privatizing national forests because "People that don’t own things don’t have the incentive to take care of them." Meanwhile, the 2016 GOP platform calls on Congress to immediately pass legislation that creates a mechanism to force some federal public lands into state control. 

Trump soon to announce Interior nominee; is conservation pledge serious?

President-elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Interior will shape a host of issues that are vitally important to the health and wellbeing of our lands, waters, wildlife and the people who enjoy them—from deciding whether some precious areas should be opened up to drilling, to deciding whether to reauthorize or weaken the wildly popular (and bipartisan-supported) Land and Water Conservation Fund, to deciding whether to continue plans to protect greater sage-grouse. 

Some of the names that have been floated for the position are, like Pruitt at EPA, simply inconsistent with Theodore Roosevelt's brand of conservation. Today was a reminder that we obviously can't take his encouraging words at face value, and we must remain vigilant in the days ahead.

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