Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Are Republicans trying to sell America’s parks?

Last Tuesday, House Resolution 330 reached the Senate. Dubbed the “No More National Parks Bill” by its detractors, HR330 would significantly curtail the President’s ability to create national monuments and parks. If passed, the bill would subject presidential protection of federal lands to Congressional approval (and also require approval from nearby state governments prior to the creation of any marine monument).

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. (Photo Credit: The Bureau of Public Management)

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. (Photo Credit: The Bureau of Public Management)

HR330 reads, in part:

Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified… Timber is a renewable natural resource which provides jobs to thousands of Americans. All efforts should be made to make federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service available for harvesting. The enduring truth is that people best protect what they own.”

Activists are claiming the bill would leave America’s forests and other assorted territories up for grabs. In other words, they can be sold, developed and heavily exploited. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico is among those fighting the bill.

“I have long believed that public lands are an equalizer in America, where access to public lands ensures that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the great outdoors or to introduce your children to hunting, fishing and hiking,” he explains. “This land grab idea is just as ludicrous as denying climate change, just as detached from reality, and similarly comes at the expense of our public health and protection of our public lands and resources.”

When it comes to environmental concern, conservatives are usually last in line. The Republican party has repeatedly vouched for increased drilling efforts of oil and gas reserves, turned their backs on renewably energy sources and pushed for further dependence on fossil fuels.

“The new Congress is already moving quickly on an agenda backed by fossil-fuel interests that would weaken protections for clean air and clean water, roll back investments in renewable energy, fast track exports of American oil, and prioritize special interest giveaways on America’s public lands,” says former Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland. “The fossil-fuel agenda of the new Congress is out of step with public opinion, and it’s out of step with the priorities of middle-class families who want more renewable energy, cleaner air for their kids, and places that will be set aside for future generations to enjoy.”

Gray wolf. (Photo Credit: National Park Service / Flickr)

Gray wolf. (Photo Credit: National Park Service / Flickr)

Party members have also made several attempts to remove animals like the sage grouse, the prairie chicken and the gray wolf from Endangered Species lists.

“In the past four years, Republicans have introduced more than 50 bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act, and 100 bills going after individual species,” explains the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl. “Not a single one, though, would help save an endangered plant or animal. Polls consistently show a majority of Americans, including many Republicans, support protecting endangered species. These kinds of bills may please rich campaign donors – especially those exploiting the planet for profits – but they’re way outside the mainstream.”

Delegates will vote on the present draft next week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

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