It’s tough being a conservationist these days.
With each passing day, the new administration and Congress announce another environmental rollback. Right out of the gate they scrapped the Obama administration’s stream protection rule, which stopped coal mining companies from removing mountaintops and dumping the spoils in our streams. Then a Florida congressman introduced a bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Then a Utah congressman introduced a bill to transfer three million acres of public lands in ten western states from the federal government to the states, where they would be able to sell them off.
That latter action was too much to swallow for residents of the West, who view public lands as a sacred birthright. So we did what any good democracy-loving Americans would do – we marched on our state capitols by the thousands and made it clear to our elected officials that they had touched the third rail. I held up a sign saying, “You can pry our lands from my cold, dead hands,” and as someone who recreates on our public lands almost every day, I meant it.
American Rivers’ Northern Rockies office co-sponsored the public lands rally in Helena, Montana, where more than 1,000 Montanans mobbed the capitol rotunda to make their voices heard. Fortunately for us, we didn’t have to convince our governor, Steve Bullock, that selling off our public lands is a terrible idea. As you can see from this video, he led the charge.
Just a few days after the public lands rally in Helena and another boisterous rally in Sante Fe, New Mexico made national news, the sponsor of the bill that would have transferred three million acres of federal lands to the states, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), abruptly announced on his Instagram page that he was pulling his bill. He had whacked a hornet’s nest, and he knew it.[clickToTweet tweet=”Make your voice heard, keep our 640 million acres of federal public lands in public hands.” quote=”Make your voice heard, keep our 640 million acres of federal public lands in public hands.”]
While public lands advocates won the first skirmish of the 115th Congress, we fully expect even worse legislation to be introduced over the next two years. Sadly, there is no shortage of compromised politicians who would sell off our national parks, national forests, BLM lands, and Wild and Scenic Rivers to their friends in the extractive industries so they can cut more timber, mine more coal, drill for more oil and gas, and pollute our rivers and streams. They are well funded, but they are also vastly outnumbered – if we make our voices heard.
Please help us keep our 640 million acres of federal public lands in public hands by emailing your members of Congress here. Better yet, call your members of Congress and tell them that you oppose all efforts to sell off or transfer management of our federal public lands. For as those of us who marched in Helena and Sante Fe just learned, if enough of us yell loud enough, the scoundrels will head for the hills.