Montana’s pristine wilderness draws visitors from across the globe, yet the state’s main attractions may be in jeopardy. Public lands and the laws that protect them have been destroyed during the last three years under the Trump administration. The pro-corporation Trump regime abused its powers by dismantling organizations searching for solutions to climate change, removing key lawmakers and putting the beauty of the undeveloped lands we cherish in danger. As stewards of the land, we must use our vote to combat this regime in the 2020 election for the sake of our natural playgrounds.
The Trump administration took dramatic legislative steps to decrease the size of protected public lands and open them up for private ownership, mining, and gas and oil drilling. According to a study in the journal Science, the Trump administration is responsible for the largest reduction of public lands in history. The Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act put the protected status of numerous national monuments like Grand Staircase-Escalante, Giant Sequoia, and Upper Missouri River Breaks in jeopardy. These national monuments, forests, and parks serve as destinations for sportsmen and tourists alike.
The POTUS also opened up wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management recreation areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Sand Flats Recreation Area to drilling and restricted public access for recreationalists. This was possible due to turnover in the National Parks Service (NPS). Upon Trump’s election, many officials resigned from NPS. This left leadership roles open for the president to nominate a new head of the NPS and new superintendents of parks like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.
As the Trump administration’s economic interests manifest across the country, we are seeing effects of the legislation close to home. In 2017, the Yellowstone National Park grizzly population was removed from the threatened species list, which puts them at risk for further reduction of their population through hunting. In addition, the Upper Missouri River Breaks, a favorite spot for avid fishermen, hunters, hikers and boaters, is located only 250 miles from Bozeman. This national monument is under review, and its federal protections are now also at risk. The Trump administration has put the conservation efforts of our outdoor community on the back burner. Therefore, we must take action to combat the environmental collapse by electing officials who will protect the interests of communities like Bozeman.
The current administration does not act alone. In some situations, corporations can benefit from the actions of the federal government. In 2017, federal acreage leased by energy companies hit its highest rate since the initial fracking boom of 2012. Numerous fracking corporations like Chevron and Chesapeake Energy have been purchasing tens of thousands of acres as the Trump administration puts the former public lands up for auction. Drilling for gas and oil on public lands would make a great deal of gasoline, oil, and power available for use. By utilizing federal, public land, drilling would not take away privately owned lands or contaminate the oceans, and it is proven to be a highly profitable method of extraction.
While President Trump and his supporters believe the lands should be used only for economic purposes, we must look at the consequences of drilling and mining for our environment. These processes can disturb wildlife, spill oil, and produce fossil fuels. For example, studies by Earthworks show that 74% of gold mines may be contaminating water sources. Although our country is built on the foundations of free-market capitalism, we must put aside visions of wealth to focus on preserving wilderness and endangered species. If we allow the Trump regime to continue down its path of destruction, these animals, plants and lands may not be around for the next generations.
Some actions by the Trump administration have protected the environment. For instance, Trump signed a public lands bill in February 2019 that “added 1.3 million acres of wilderness, expanded several national parks, and created five national monuments,” according to the Associated Press. In 2020, the administration passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, which guaranteed $900 million per year to this vital environmental organization. However, these actions are not enough, and the bad outweighs the good in the Trump administration’s choices regarding the environment.
As residents of Bozeman, we must place the environment at the forefront of concerns when filling in our ballots in November. The current political administration is tearing apart the very foundations of the great American wilderness. Our public lands support our economies, ecosystems, and recreation. They protect American history, habitats, and draw visitors from around the globe. The 2020 presidential election will change the course of environmentalism forever, and we must do our part to protect our values as outdoorsmen and -women.