Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fate uncertain for federal lands under Trump presidency

It’s almost certain that Donald Trump’s presidency will refuel a “drill, baby, drill” policy on federal lands in the West. The president-elect has also vowed to scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-fired power plants and other rules aimed at curbing global warming. Environmentalists are less certain what to expect from the Trump White House on a simmering backburner attempt to “transfer” federal lands into the hands of the states that want them. Conservative politicians and activists contend that the people who live near the federal lands are best equipped to determine how they should be used. An organization called the American Lands Council is a leader of the transfer movement. The nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council drafts bills for interested legislators. Several Western states, including Colorado’s neighbors to the north and west, have passed legislation to study the transfers. Such a bill passed the Republic-controlled state Senate in Colorado last session, but it died in the Democrat-controlled House... ENVIRONMENTALISTS PERFORM TRIAGE Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop, the area’s oldest homegrown environmental advocacy group, said the conservation community is “performing triage” on issues as Trump prepares to take the White House. “The most imminent threat is ‘drill, baby, drill,’ ‘lease before you look,’” Shoemaker said. Trump wants to increase domestic production of fossil fuels. Conservation groups fear lands that deserve protection will be leased for oil and gas exploration without thorough study. The fight like the one waged over the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale will become common throughout the West. Meanwhile, there is nothing imminent on the transfer of public lands, Shoemaker noted. “So for us, it’s like a slow-burn crisis,” he said. The problem is, if the transfer gains steam, it might be too late to stop it since the Republican Party has a monopoly on the three branches of government Shoemaker said...COUNTER INITIATIVE ON LAND While conservative activists and politicians have pushed for transfers, there’s been a counter effort at the local level in Colorado. High Country News reported in a July 2015 article that seven Colorado counties, including Eagle and Pitkin, have passed resolutions opposing transferring federal public lands to the states. At the time, Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards labeled the transfer a real threat because of the control of Congress. After the Nov. 8 election, she warned people they better not bury their heads in the sand on environmental issues after Trump prevailed. Among her concerns are that the lands will be transferred to the states for their “useful disposal.” “It’s just clearly unleashed,” Richards said of the conservative agenda. “I think anything’s on the table.” But opponents of transfers might have an ace in the hole. Studies by Utah and Wyoming concluded transfers would be costly for the states, perhaps prohibitively costly...more

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