National treasures threatened by Trump energy policy
President Donald Trump has recently asked the Secretary of Agriculture to open the Tongass National Forest to the logging industry. This old-growth forest and national treasure has been protected from logging and road building for over 20 years.
This president, who calls himself an "environmentalist" (even though he skipped the G-7 session on climate change) has similarly reversed protections and redrawn boundaries for several national monuments in favor of the energy and extraction industries.
These include the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, effectively stealing more than two million acres of protected public lands and handing them over to the fossil fuel industry. This is by far, the largest rollback of public lands protections in the history of the United States.
The administration plans to lease these public lands this month for oil and gas drilling in the remote high desert canyon country squeezed between Bears Ears, Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep National Monuments. However, there is already a surplus of federal land that is under lease but not under development in Utah and elsewhere.
This wild and beautiful landscape is one of the most culturally and archaeologically rich public land areas in the U.S., containing 1,000-year old cliff dwellings, pueblos, kivas, petroglyphs and rock art. The area is significant to Native American Tribes throughout the region, including the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and many Pueblos of New Mexico.
The fact is there is no need to harm our planetary health or sacrifice our remarkable wild places and wondrous cultural landscapes for oil and gas leasing. Under his administration's "energy dominance" policy, we are foolishly and unnecessarily exacerbating the climate crisis, while sacrificing our ecological diversity and precious national natural and cultural heritage. And it's time to empower leaders with a better set of priorities.
Michael W. Ander