WildEarth Guardians

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Public lands in public hands – exposing greedy land-grabbers and fighting privatization

Public Lands in Public Hands

Public lands provide limitless opportunities to experience everything from majestic red rock canyons to ancient sequoia groves, vast mountain wildernesses, and the stunning Sagebrush Sea. Many of these areas are protected from development as National Parks, Monuments, Forests and Wilderness Areas, providing the last remaining places for clean water and air, and homes to a remarkable diversity of wildlife, birds, and fish.

Unfortunately, exploitation and privatization of the commons is as old as the West, and protection of, and public access to, these lands is not assured. Wealthy, entrenched interests are lobbying their friends in Congress, pressuring federal agencies, and supporting the message of radicals like the Bundy family that they are the rightful owners of public lands and can do with them as they see fit.

We can’t stand by and let this happen. Guardians works to expose the efforts of greedy land-grabbers to keep public lands where they belong: in public hands.

Public Lands Grabs

Public lands privatization schemes are alive and well in the U.S., but most Americans don’t know about them. Our report aims to change that and to raise awareness of the many proposals that threaten to rob us all, parcel by parcel, of public lands.

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Public Lands in Public Hands Key Strategies

The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are required by law to serve the public, rather than private proponents, when trading or selling public lands. Still, too often agency proposals reward privatizers with valuable land or access to minerals and offer little value in return for the rest of us. Guardians monitors agency land trades and sales from initial proposal to final decision to make sure the public interest is upheld. When it’s not, we challenge the actions in court.

Several Western states—led by Utah—have demanded that all public lands inside their borders be handed over to them, claiming it’s required by the Constitution. This discredited theory is promoted by far-right groups whose corporate funders stand to profit from state ownership. Meanwhile, the impacts would be enormous: more clearcutting and mining, less environmental oversight and public access. Guardians organizes opposition to state efforts to steal public lands and works to expose the big-money interests behind the movement.

Too many members of Congress treat their districts’ public lands as personal fiefdoms. They sponsor legislation for land deals exempted from fundamental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act in order to conceal that they serve the needs of the rich and well-connected rather than the public. Guardians exposes the politicians’ shady bills and organizes opposition to fight for the public’s interest.

National monuments protect priceless cultural and geologic treasures; for instance, Bandelier National Monument in Arizona preserves Ancestral Puebloan culture, including homes, kivas, and rock paintings, and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in California and Oregon protects the biodiversity of a unique ecosystem at the junction of two mountain ranges. Unfortunately, national monuments are also a beachhead in current attacks on public lands: President Trump claimed to be restoring the rights of Utahns when he issued orders drastically shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Guardians defends the rights of all Americans to preserve national monuments for future generations. We are committed to fighting monument reductions from the president and Congress.