By: Arcadia Davies
National parks and other public lands are facing big risks as private companies seize new opportunities, under Trump’s administration, to drill on federal lands.
Since the first national park (Yellowstone) was signed into law in 1872 there have been efforts to privatize these lands for development, timber, and mining. With Trump as the President of the United States, there is now increased access to federal leases.
National parks and forests, wildlife refuges, and tribal territories are targeted because of the oil, gas, coal, and uranium that they possess.
Areas that were once protected under the Obama administration are now at risk. Trump said Obama has “[denied] millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting right under our feet.”
Trump’s advisors are looking to privatize Native American reservations, which hold approximately 1.5 trillion dollars in oil and gas, according to EcoWatch. The U.S. Department of Interior, which manages a majority of the public land, is now headed by Ryan Zinke, a climate change skeptic and coal mining advocate.
Trump’s recent Energy Independence Policy has lifted the ban on Federal Leasing for coal production and initiated the process to continue the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Drilling on these public lands means disrupting the natural ecosystems. The risks of fracking include increased air and noise pollution, roads and pipelines that damage the land for wildlife, and disturbance to surface and groundwater. These results can damage an ecosystem for decades.
In an interview with Dr. Kevin Armitage, a professor in the Western Program at Miami University, he addressed the many environmental threats that come from fracking. He then continued:
“There is an even larger issue with fracking on national parks, and that is the degradation of democracy itself.”
National Parks have always been available to all people. Tourism in national parks provides people from all demographics an experience to appreciate nature, and inspires a connection to the environment.
Congress founded the National Park Service to preserve the environment while enhancing tourism. Fracking threatens both.
By fracking on these lands we are turning a democratic institution into a private one. The people have an important voice in this issue and it is important that we speak out to protect our national parks.
We must protect our public lands for both the health of our environment and our democracy.
Images via Creative Commons.