Earlier this month in Florida, President Donald Trump absurdly called himself “the great environmentalist.” That’s right. The guy, who repealed or weakened more than a hundred environmental protections, proposed unbridled oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of lands and waters, and still denies climate science even as apocalyptic wildfires and hurricanes devastate communities, now expects us to believe he’s “number one since Teddy Roosevelt.”
The hundred million Americans who spend time outdoors in nature — hunting, fishing, hiking, camping or paddling — will not be fooled by this desperate election year greenwashing. Simply put, that dog don’t hunt.
Appointing deniers and zealots
Back home in New Mexico there’s a local truism, “Dime con quien andas, y te diré quien eres,” which means, “Tell me who you hang around with, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Donald Trump stocked his administration with hundreds of climate deniers, fossil fuel lobbyists and anti-public land zealots.
Pendley’s views are so extreme that President Trump had to withdraw his nomination from the Senate confirmation process, because my Republican colleagues feared electoral repercussions. Yet, Pendley is still in charge of your public lands, unconfirmed and illegally, with the full support of the White House.
It’s not just personnel that makes Trump’s conservation claims offensive, it’s the wrecking ball he’s taken to more than a century’s worth of conservation progress. In 1906, President Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass the Antiquities Act to protect living cultural landscapes, like New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and what would become Bandelier National Monument, from threats of widespread looting and desecration. Roosevelt strategically used the act to protect some of America’s most iconic landscapes, including the Grand Canyon and Muir Woods.
Donald Trump abused the Antiquities Act to illegally strip protections from more than two million acres of sensitive cultural and paleontological sites in the desert Southwest. In Bears Ears National Monument, he ignored concerns of tribal leaders — who relate to the area as a living cultural landscape rich with sacred sites — in favor of corporate interests seeking unfettered access to uranium, oil and gas.
Trump has decimated wildlife safeguards
As ducks, geese and heron populations plummeted due to market hunting and demand for feathers for women’s hats, Roosevelt responded by creating our nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in Florida and 54 other wildlife refuges. That system would grow to over five hundred refuges in every state including the crown jewel of the refuge system, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
By contrast, Trump stripped critical protections from millions of acres of wetland habitat and stopped enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow industry broad exemptions to kill birds so long as the deaths are not “intentional.” And finally, he’s sacrificing critical habitat for porcupine caribou, polar bears, musk oxen and hundreds of species of birds by turning the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain into an industrial oil and gas production zone.
Through both deed and action, President Trump has repeatedly shown us who he is. He’s the guy who fully supported unbridled oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida for the first 1,327 days of his administration. He repeatedly proposed 90% budget cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He removed dozens of environmental protections and proposed allowing drilling on more of our public lands than any president in decades, that including in special places like the greater Grand Canyon and Boundary Waters.
President Trump will be forever remembered as the worst conservation president in American history. Election year epiphanies cannot change his abysmal record. As someone who has spent a lifetime working to build upon Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, I can say with great confidence, “Mr. President, you are NO Theodore Roosevelt.”