Over the course of his administration, President Obama designated or expanded 19 National Monuments including some that were created over Republican objections. But national monuments and national parks are just a fraction of the 640 million acres of land under federal control, land that also includes national forests and grasslands as well as properties controlled by the BLM. Though the federal government has controlled most of this land for over a century, there are factions on the wildlife sanctuary-invading right that don’t believe most, or any, land should be under federal control.
There’s an even bigger group—one with much more money and influence—that looks at these lands with hunger.
Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish. …
Environmental groups are urging President Obama to push through last-minute preservation projects, such as naming a new national monument in the Bears Ears area of southern Utah. And they are already preparing for battles over Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to “unleash” coal, oil and gas production — much of it on public land.
Opening additional lands for fossil fuels at the moment might actually have little impact. There is a glut of these fuels on the market and additional large resources are on either private land or existing federal leases. Some recent federal auctions for coal or oil rights ended with no takers. However, over the longer term, the extraction of these fuels is a threat to federal lands and to animals and plants which are protected by an Endangered Species Act that is also in Republican crosshairs. And in addition to fossil fuels, there are other resources on federal land that have genuine, immediate value … and their extraction would have genuine, immediate impact.
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