Trump Swiftly Blows Up His 1 Decent Conservation Action
The Trump administration wasted no time proving what was clear from the start: Support for a major public land law was nothing more than pre-election greenwashing for President Donald Trump and two Senate allies.
In August, Trump signed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, falsely portraying himself as a conservationist on par with President Theodore Roosevelt. Widely regarded as the most significant conservation legislation of a generation, the move will provide $ 9.5 billion to repair crumbling national park infrastructure and will permanently fund the Land and Water Fund with $ 900 million per year. The decade-old LWCF uses offshore fossil fuel revenues to create and protect parks, nature reserves, forests, and wildlife habitats.
But Trump and his team have long been enemies of the LWCF. The administration repeatedly tried to fund the program. And days after the 2020 presidential election, which Trump easily lost, Home Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order bringing the LWCF to its knees and undermining the new law that Bernhardt had previously argued would not pass without Trump's "strong and courageous move" would have been.
The November 9 resolution gives the governors and local jurisdictions the power to veto the LWCF's acquisition of state. Written support from both the governor concerned and the local county or equivalent government (e.g. parish, county) is required for the acquisition of land, water, or ownership of land or water under the federal LWCF program . " read.
Once the election was over, it was open season for land protection.
Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities
The move is a parting gift for the anti-federal land movement, which had exceptional access to high-level administrative officials but has never convinced the administration to accept the wholesale transfer or sale of public land. In fact, the requirement on Bernhardt's behalf reflects an amendment that Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced when the Great American Outdoors Act was being debated in Congress, E&E News pointed out.
Lee is strongly against federal control of public land in the west. "Our long-term goal must be state-to-state transfers," Lee wrote in a 2018 tweet. William Perry Pendley, the senior civil servant of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, shares these extreme views, once writing that the "Founding Fathers intended to sell all land to the federal government ".
Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists and outdoor sports groups have beaten Trump's interior ministers for attempting to bypass Congress and restrict the distribution of LWCF funds.
"I urge you to lift this anti-public land order immediately," wrote Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), A longtime champion of the LWCF, in a letter to Bernhardt last week. "This undermines what a landowner can do with their own private property and creates unnecessary additional bureaucracy that will hamper future land acquisitions by the Land and Water Fund."
In a press release announcing Bernhardt's order, the Home Office said the action "recognizes Interior's commitment to being a good neighbor by giving states and communities a voice in acquiring state."
President Donald Trump signs the Great American Outdoors Act at the White House on August 4th. The law on public land aims to repair the crumbling national park infrastructure and permanently finance the land and water protection fund. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images)
For those who paid attention, Trump's U-turn on the LWCF was little more than a political favor for two Republican senators facing tough re-election bids in states where protection of public land is a key issue among voters. Trump praised himself and spoke to Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) And Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Who both previously voted for a cut in LWCF funding and supported Trump's anti-conservation agenda at every turn had .
"This landmark legislation would not have been possible without the incredible leadership and hard work of two outstanding senators and two good people - Cory Gardner and Steve Daines," Trump said at a signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act.
During the campaign, Daines and Gardner advertised their work on the Great American Outdoors Act. Daines eventually defeated his challenger. Gardner didn't.
Once the 2020 election was over, Trump's team would go for one of its only preservation wins. First, the Ministries of Home Affairs and Agriculture missed the legal deadlines for submitting project lists in order to receive LWCF funding. Then came Bernhardt's order to undermine the program as a whole.
The Great American Outdoors Act is undoubtedly a great victory for America's public land and for the LWCF, which has been plagued by funding shortages throughout its 50-year history. The government's alleged support for this was "a ruse" and a "blatant lie," Aaron Weiss, associate director of the Colorado-based conservation group Center for Western Priorities, told HuffPost. He assumes that Bernhardt always intended to undercut the law, regardless of whether Trump won a second term or not.
"Once the elections were over, it was open season for land protection," Weiss said via email, adding that Bernhardt "will throw as much sand into the gears as possible on the way out."
The Home Office and other federal agencies are rushing to complete numerous environmental setbacks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. This includes selling oil and gas leases in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and permanently removing protection for hundreds of migratory bird species.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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