Our wilderness is in jeopardy.
Under the Trump administration, we’re experiencing the largest reduction in protected public lands in American history. Trump, members of his cabinet, his cronies in Congress and bigwigs in the fossil fuel industry have combined forces to dismantle environmental regulations and gut public lands. The Wilderness Society has dubbed the group below the Terrible Ten, ten people and groups waging war against our wildlands.
“I’m a real estate developer. When they start talking about millions of acres, I say, 'say it again?' That’s a lot.” - Upon signing proclamations gutting protection for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments (Source)
As president, Trump has largely catered to a the fossil fuel energy agenda dreamed up for his administration by industry bigwigs. He has teamed with pro-polluter Congress and cabinet members to gut federal agencies and roll back environmental rules. He revived the highly controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines within days of being sworn into office and went on to launch an unprecedented "review" that led to gutting protections for lands previously designated as national monuments. Trump reversed an Obama-era rule so he could open public lands for new coal leasing, halted measures to reduce methane waste and pollution from drilling projects, and pulled the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Not even two years in, the Trump administration is the most disastrous ever for America's shared lands and waters.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by President Donald Trump:
- Presided over the largest reduction of public lands protections in history by unlawfully eliminating large portions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. More cuts to other monuments may be on the way.
- Encourages rampant drilling and mining on our wildest public lands and waters, including next to the Grand Canyon and in most of the Arctic Ocean, all in shortsighted pursuit of "energy dominance."
“Fracking is proof that God’s got a good sense of humor and he loves us,” - Zinke said without explanation. (Source)
It's truly difficult to summarize Ryan Zinke’s conservation crimes in just a paragraph or two. He has re-opened public lands for new coal leases, weakened protections for greater sage-grouse habitat, executed a "land swap" that will allow a private company to build a road through Alaska wilderness... the list goes on and on, with a litany of favors carried out for energy and mining interests. Through it all, Zinke positions himself as an outdoors-loving heir to Teddy Roosevelt, but it is clear that the similarities between Zinke and his oft-mentioned hero are limited to their shared love of brimmed hats.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke:
- Recommended drastic cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, as well as planning to gut protections for national monument lands in Oregon, Nevada, Maine, New Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- Overseeing the administration's plan to lease the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies.
- Encouraged offshore drilling in virtually all of America’s coastal waters, posing a grave threat to thousands of miles of sensitive shorelines.
“These lands–whether onshore or offshore, or in the contiguous 48 states or Alaska–hold an abundance of oil and natural gas resources … the question is whether we have access to develop those resources” - Senior API official arguing to weaken the Antiquities Act, which is used to protect natural and cultural landmarks (Source)
A trade group representing numerous oil and gas companies, the powerful American Petroleum Institute (API) fits right into the fossil fuel-friendly Trump era. The API is one of the loudest voices pushing to open more lands and waters for drilling and blunt common-sense regulation—including advocating to kill a rule that aims to limit methane pollution from drilling operations on public lands. Its ultimate goal is to protect the billions of dollars in tax breaks and giveaways the oil and gas industry receives each year.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by the API:
- Pushed for drilling in the fragile coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Has lobbied to weaken the Antiquities Act, the law used to protect Bears Ears National Monument, the Grand Canyon and numerous other natural landmarks.
- Endorsed measures to give states control of leasing, permitting and regulation for oil and gas development on many national public lands while blocking key environmental laws.
“[The Antiquities Act] contains much of what I came to Washington to fight.” - On the law signed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and used to protect public lands ranging from the Grand Canyon to Bears Ears (Source)
Sen. Mike Lee is an avowed member of the anti-public lands fringe in American politics and part of the notorious Utah congressional delegation whose policies gave the annual Outdoor Retailer Show no choice but to finally leave the state. Lee’s pet projects include undercutting the Antiquities Act, a law used to protect landscapes as national monuments, and limiting options to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat. Additionally, he has voted to sell off public lands, pave the way for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and effectively end the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which takes royalties from drilling and gives those funds to the government to purchase land for parks and open spaces.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by Utah Senator Mike Lee:
- Along with other Utah officials, helped convince Trump to gut protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
- Has sought to introduce mountain biking and other mechanical transportation into federal wilderness areas, even though hundreds of millions of acres of national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, trails and other wildlands already are or can be made available for those activities.
- Introduced legislation to sell off “excess” public lands to pay down the federal debt, a tactic opposed by nearly three-quarters of voters in western states.
“We know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing.” - During a television interview (Source)
Resigned July 2018.
Unrepentant climate change denier Scott Pruitt had the gall to invoke conservation legend John Muir in his introductory address at the EPA, and it's all been downhill from there. In his first few months, Pruitt oversaw suspension of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama's signature effort to address climate change, and reportedly convinced Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. Now he is hollowing out the EPA, shedding experienced staff in favor of pro-industry voices while he suppresses research and practices what a former chair of an EPA science advisory board calls "scientific censorship." Pruitt's long list of personal scandals, which is essentially impossible to keep updated, includes spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a full-time security detail, a soundproof phone booth and other unnecessary luxuries as well as using the influence of his position to attempt to obtain used Trump Hotel mattresses and a Chick-Fil-A franchise for his wife.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt:
- Is working to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, a key Obama administration rule for limiting emissions that drive climate change.
- Reportedly takes more than three-quarters of his meetings with representatives of the industries his agency is supposed to be regulating.
- Allowed an oil and gas company to write letters to the EPA under his name while serving as Oklahoma's attorney general.
“I describe it as that — sort of that slow accretion, that slow cancer that can come from regulatory burdens that we put on our people.” - Characterizing the hundreds of regulations he has helped the Trump administration kill, including environmental rules that limited pollution (Source)
In Congress, Mick Mulvaney received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Koch Industries (see no. 8), a major industrial polluter that repeatedly violates environmental regulations, and delivered the anti-conservation returns you'd expect. Those include votes to encourage drilling in the Arctic Ocean and off the coast of Florida; make it harder to protect landscapes like Bears Ears as national monuments; and reject permanent re-authorization of the vital Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which protects land in order to complete national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other shared spaces. Indeed, he recently admitted he gave special access to lobbyists who had donated to his campaign, a clear example of the "swamp"-ish political corruption Trump claimed to oppose. Now, Mulvaney is in charge of the Trump administration's extreme plans on how to spend taxpayer money, which include slashing environmental rules and effectively killing LWCF.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney:
- Supports slashing environmental rules even though his agency admits they are well worth the money they cost to implement.
- Presides over Trump's federal budget proposals, a series of gifts to the oil, gas and coal industries, that include debilitating cuts to conservation programs and more drilling on wild public lands.
- Proposed a 90 percent reduction to the long-running and popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was designed so there would always be money available for its core purpose of protecting land.
The Bundy Family is part of a big oil-supported movement that seeks to dismantle the federal government while cloaking itself in the trappings of the independent, all-American cowboy. Specifically, the Bundys want to seize control of more of America’s public lands from the government so they can use them for personal enrichment, spurred by a decades-old dispute in which the patriarch of the family, Cliven Bundy, stopped paying fees to graze his cattle on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, then ignored a court order and numerous warnings to remove the herd. The Bundys believe their business enterprise trumps the law and the right of their fellow Americans to enjoy the nation’s shared public lands, and they’re willing to take up arms to enforce that belief. They are the most visible advocates for the "public land takeover" movement, a suite of local and national attempts to seize more of America’s public lands for private gain and chip away at the foundations of our national conservation tradition.
Worst Wilderness and Public Lands Offenses by the Bundys:
- Launched an armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 that lasted more than a month.
- Staged a tense weeks-long stand-off in 2014 with federal officials who had been ordered by a judge to remove cattle that were unlawfully grazing on public land.
- Demonstrated against federal management of public lands when some members unlawfully drove ATVs into an area in Utah called Recapture Canyon that is closed to motorized vehicles.
“They simply did not believe the law applied to them.” - Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner describing Koch Industries' chronically leaky pipelines and resultant violations of the Clean Water Act (Source)
The Koch name is nearly synonymous with nefarious political influence, and that certainly extends to causes that hurt public lands and the environment. Using their dirty pipeline fortune, the Koch Brothers have been regular donors to the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which distributes cookie-cutter bills to state legislatures in hopes that they will enact anti-public lands laws; the Property and Environment Research Center, which advocates for privatizing national parks and giving public lands away to the states; and, via Americans for Prosperity, the American Lands Council, which works to similar ends. They are still throwing their money around in a huge way—and that means they're paving the way for even more radical anti-conservation policies.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by the Koch Brothers:
- Donated billions to causes that seek to reduce protection for public lands or give them away to state governments.
- Gave millions of dollars to think-tanks that deny climate change and oppose restrictions on pollution.
- Runs and owns the majority of Koch Industries, one of only three companies that rank among the top 30 contributors of air, water and climate pollution.
“Could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.” - Speaking on the Senate floor in 2003, which was the third warmest year on record at year's end but has since fallen out of the top ten because it keeps getting hotter (Source)
No elected official is more closely associated with climate change denial than Sen. James Inhofe, who famously brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate on a winter day as an argument that the planet couldn't possibly be getting warmer. Inhofe has sometimes changed tack to imply that he accepts the science—but that climate change will actually be good for us, an idea experts say is bogus. Unsurprisingly, he has fiercely opposed commonsense environmental rules, including dismissing the dangers posed by fracking to ground water; pushing tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry, members of which have donated nearly $2 million to his campaign committees over the course of his career; and advocating for more drilling on public lands.
Worst Wilderness Offenses by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe:
- Is Congress' most vocal and prolific climate denier, often making use of bizarre conspiracy theories and weird publicity stunts.
- Introduced legislation that would make it easier for states to force oil and gas development on many national public lands.
- Once referred to the Environmental Protection Agency as a "Gestapo bureaucracy."