A prebuttal to President Trump’s “State of Delusion” address and his war on America’s public lands

Jan 29, 2018

Protest against White House attempts to undermine efforts to address climate change, 2017. 

Bill Clark, CQ / Roll Call
During this first year in office, President Trump has conducted an unprecedented attack on America’s shared public lands, abetted by anti-conservationists in Congress and a cabinet aptly described as a “coalition of the drilling.”

(See interactive timeline from The Wilderness Society documenting White House actions over the past 12 months)

His actions to roll back protections for public lands and reverse progress on pollution control and climate change all point to the administration’s goal:  Selling out public lands owned by all Americans in the pursuit of dirty energy so a handful of private interests can profit.  

Below are highlights of some of the low points from the past year, plus Trump’s spin.

Trump says his actions give lands back to local people, but what he’s really doing is…

Dismembering National Treasures

Disregarding strong support from nearly three million Americans in local communities living near national monuments—notably tribal nations fighting to protect sacred lands—Trump has issued illegal executive orders to strip away protections for vast portions of national monuments in Utah (Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante). He has threated to reverse monument protections in other states as well.  A group of anti-public lands extremists in Congress has introduced legislation to codify Trump’s actions, which prioritize mining, drilling and logging over conservation, recreation and wildlife.

Trump says he wants to improve infrastructure and parks, but what he’s really doing is…

Weakening environmental protections and selling out our public lands.

Brad Brooks, Public Lands Campaign Director at The Wilderness Society, commented, “The Trump administration is saying, in effect, 'we will fix your crumbling roads and bridges and pay for it by selling your parks and public lands.’” A leaked White House document on infrastructure called, “Funding Principles,” reported on January 22, included a section to establish through executive order the authority to sell off federal assets to pay for infrastructure investments. Moreover, the plan would sideline basic environmental protections (see “Putting pipelines through national parks,” below).

Trump says he’s making America “energy dominant,” but what he’s really doing is…

Making America Polluted Again

Over the past year, the administration has:

Trump says he’s making America safer, but what he’s really doing is…

Ignoring the Dangerous Threat of Climate Change

In just one year, Trump has:

  • Withdrew the U.S. from the historic Paris climate agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Purged leading scientists with expertise in climate change from federal agencies.

Trump says drilling in the Arctic Refuge is critical to our energy security, but what he’s really doing is…

Needlessly Endangering One of the Last Pristine Wild Places

President Trump proposed drilling in one of the most pristine wildlife sanctuaries on earth – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  Congress followed suit by inserting a provision in tax bill that permits oil drilling in this refuge – even though drilling would not produce the promised federal revenue or increase the nation’s energy security. If the White House and Congress can approve destructive roads, infrastructure and pollution that accompanies drilling in this fragile refuge for polar bears, caribou and migrating birds, are any public lands in America safe?

Trump says he’s “draining the swamp” of special interests in Washington, but he’s really…

Installing a “Coalition of the Drilling” to Enrich a Few at the Expense of Many

Trump’s fossil fuel fantasy team includes climate-change denier Scott Pruitt heading the EPA, former ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson at the State Department, and Ryan Zinke who champions energy production on public lands as a top priority at the Department of the Interior.  Furthermore, Zinke is filling DOI with known public land-disposal advocates, such as Todd Wynn, who worked at the Koch-supported American Legislative Exchange Council. 

Trump’s offshore drilling program reflects its zeal for energy extraction everywhere.  BLM auctioned off leases just outside a number of national parks and monuments. Despite repeated objections from the National Park Service, energy leasing has advanced near Dinosaur National Monument, an incredible landscape famous for prehistoric fossils. Leasing was also proposed near Bears Ears National Monument.

Trump says that he cares about rural Americans in the West, but what he’s really doing is…

Second-guessing Millions Who Want to Conserve America’s Sagebrush Landscapes

Trump’s Interior Department announced in October that it will alter the landmark sage grouse conservation plans in Western states, reversing progress on this historic agreement that drew consensus among state governments, local ranchers and conservationists.  The Trump decision hampers the carefully ironed out agreement that balanced local needs with protection of

threatened species that depend on the sagebrush ecosystem.  

Trump says he wants Americans to enjoy our outdoors, but what’s he’s really doing is…

Making it Harder to Visit the Public Lands that Americans Own

By proposing budget cuts to the Department of the Interior and jacking up park entrance fees by more than 100 percent for many of our popular national parks, the Trump administration will make a bad problem worse. Among Americans with annual household incomes under $30,000 per year, 71 percent say they would be less likely to visit a national park with the fee increase.

The Trump administration proposed a fiscal year 2018 budget that would cut at least $120 million from federal land acquisition under the historic Land and Water Conservation Fund, which takes a modest amount of off-shore oil royalties in publicly owned waters and reinvests those dollars in parks all across the United States.

Looking ahead to 2018 – More of the Same

Weakening and Watering Down Conservation Laws

Throughout the year, the public can expect more erosion of bedrock conservation laws that have preserved and protected the nation’s lands and waters for decades, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Antiquities Act.

Putting Pipelines through National Parks -- with No Public Input

In Trump’s proposal to “improve” America’s transportation and energy infrastructure, he would eviscerate the fundamental protections that safeguard our clean air, clean drinking water, parks and wildlife. For example, the Trump plan would give Interior Secretary Zinke authority to allow gas pipelines to cut through our national parks – with no public input or scrutiny.  Currently Congress must approve any gas pipeline in that goes through national park lands.

Paying for Infrastructure by Selling Public Lands

A leaked White House document reported on January 22 included a section about paying for infrastructure costs by selling off federal assets which include public lands. The administration is essentially saying, “we will fix your crumbling roads and bridges and pay for it by selling your parks and public lands.”

Americans can expect the Trump administration to continue to prioritize resource extraction on public lands over conservation and recreation.

Worse Protection under the Guise of Better Management

In 2018, the public can expect revised management policies that reduce protections at several iconic national monuments in Maine, New Mexico and in pristine marine sanctuaries in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The reported “reorganization” of the Department of the Interior will merely serve as a distraction from the pro-extraction agenda and continued underfunding for the agency.

Providing a Platform for Climate Deniers and Privatization Proponents

Expect more professionals in the federal government to be replaced by climate-change deniers, fossil fuel executives and extreme ideologues who believe in selling out public lands owned by all for private gain by a few special interests. 

The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org

Contact: Michael Reinemer, Deputy Director, Wildlands Communications, michael_reinemer@tws.org202-429-3949