Obama administration rushes to protect public lands before Trump takes office

The Guardian
Nov 24th 2016
By: Oliver Milman

Barack Obama’s administration is rushing through conservation safeguards for large areas of public land ahead of Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House, presenting a conundrum for the new president’s goal of opening up more places for oil and gas drilling.

On Monday, the US Department of the Interior banned gold mining on 30,000 acres of land near the northern entrance of Yellowstone national park. This follows announcements last week that barred drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and a brokered settlement that cancelled 32,000 acres of mining leases on Montana land considered by the Blackfeet tribe as “like a church, a divine sanctuary”.

Obama’s administration has also cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in Colorado since Trump’s election win and further executive action is expected before the real estate magnate takes office in January.

Environmentalists expect some level of protection to be placed upon the Bears Ears landscape in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada and the greater Grand Canyon area, in order to bar uranium mining in the region. A permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic is also on the wish list, but is considered less likely.

Trump has said that more public land should be opened up for fossil fuel extraction, although he has also said the government should be “great stewards” of the land. In a YouTube address outlining his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would “cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs”..

Obama has protected more land and water – more than 265m acres – via executive action than any other president. Green groups are quietly confident that they would be able to sway moderate Republicans to oppose any dismantling of the reserves Obama set up, citing strong public support for them, but Trump is expected to follow an aggressively pro-fossil fuels approach once in power.

Read more at The Guardian