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Nefarious Schemes to Privatize Public Lands Are Thriving Under Trump Administration

April 17, 2019
Chris Krupp, 206-417-6363, ckrupp@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Public Lands  
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – WildEarth Guardians released an online report today identifying ten nefarious proposals to privatize public lands and resources across the western United States. Collectively, these projects and proposed legislation indicate privatization endeavors are alive and well across the West, despite the claims of President Trump and his administration that public lands would not be sold off during his time in office, and overwhelming public support of keeping public lands in public hands. The report includes privatization schemes in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah, and legislation that could impact public lands west-wide.

As a candidate, President Trump went on record opposing states taking ownership of public lands, a position well within mainstream opinion but out of step with many in his party. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke similarly claimed to oppose public lands giveaways, and current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, in his prior role as a deputy secretary, stated Interior opposed the selling of public lands to states or private interests.

“Americans have made it clear they want public lands not only retained but protected, and they’ve been led to believe the government is finally listening to them,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “Unfortunately, the proposals in this report show that’s not true. A broad range of industries are working with the Trump White House, the federal agencies and members of Congress to seize the nation’s commons for private benefit.”

Seven of the proposals described in the report would benefit mining or fossil fuels interests, reflecting the extractive industries’ longstanding reliance on privatization. But other industries have come to rely on privatization as well, and the report includes proposals to benefit land development, commercial fishing, and ski resort businesses.

The report reflects the significant environmental and recreational impacts of privatizing public lands. For example, a proposed land trade in southwest Colorado to enable the development of a high-end ski resort would destroy Canada lynx habitat and a rare fen wetland. In Nevada, a proposal from the Clark County Commissioners would privatize an additional 44,000 acres of public lands around Las Vegas, exacerbating sprawl, degrading already-poor air quality, and threatening to dry up springs hundreds of miles north of the city. In California’s San Bernardino Mountains, the Bureau of Land Management has proposed resolving a mining company’s illegal trespass by selling it public lands specifically designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern to protect, bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, raptors and other species.

“Every privatization project incrementally damages the health of public lands, and destroys opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting and other recreation activities,” said Krupp. “Today, wildlife and people need public lands as a safeguard against some of the worst impacts of climate change, but our government still offers them up to the highest bidder.”