There are few places left in the world where entire ecosystems are wild, wildlife corridors intact, soil unturned, water unpolluted, and views uninterrupted by human development. Comprising roughly 640 million acres of US soil and ranging from national parks and wildlife refuges to national forests, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and designated wetlands, these remaining wild places exist primarily on our public lands. Public lands serve as some of humanity’s only anchors to the natural world, host essential nonhuman life, and preserve indigenous history and culture. Public Trust is a MUST SEE film, as it educates viewers on the increasing vulnerability of public lands. Watch here: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=public+trust+film&docid=608020880890988191&mid=90F3962123B23CD8698590F3962123B23CD86985&view=detail&FORM=VIRE
Below are some significant points brought up in the film:
1) Corporations want to profit off of public land resources: For some of us, the main profit from nature is spiritual, recreational, or sustenance gathering (wood, hunting, fishing). For others, nature is viewed as a commodity. In the case of cattle grazing, it can be viewed as healthy food, when managed sustainably. But there are those who have the means to lease a desired portion of public land aggressively to exploit lush forests, roaring rivers, mineral-rich mountainsides and underground oil/gas deposits. Specifically, according to The Wilderness Society, the BLM makes lands available, through a nomination and leasing process, to the oil and gas industry, and has the potential to open up roughly 90% of our public lands. Additionally, developers have deserted 161,000 mining sites—all left for taxpayers and locals to clean up. Perhaps more frightening is the persistent push by industrial entities to privatize and purchase public lands, providing the opportunity for “no limits” to development. As humans, we must ask, who benefits when the last wild places on this beautiful planet have been pillaged and destroyed at the hands of corporate interest? Who profits when nature has been systematically compromised? From threats of oil and gas development on our Baca Wildlife Refuge to frequent water export proposals and the looming Wolf Creek Pass development efforts, SLVEC knows that the best way to profit from our public lands is to protect them.
2) Many public lands host an abundance of cultural, historical, and sacred indigenous American artifacts: Public Trust serves as a wonderful reminder to viewers that before any lands were declared public or private, they were Native lands. They still are Native lands, even if not recognized by the government or private interest. Indigenous drawings, burials/remains, artifacts, ancestral territories, sacred sites, etc. can be found within many of the lands that are open to the public today. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, for example, shares that “ Bears Ears is home to more than 100,000 Native American archeological and cultural sites considered sacred by many tribes.” Though protected as a national monument under the Obama administration, Bears Ears National Monument was drastically reduced during the Trump administration, opening the door to oil and gas development. Greater Chaco, Standing Rock, Oak Flat, Bears Ears, Mauna Kea, the list of sacred landscapes subjected to exploitation goes on and on. Disturbing historical and meaningful environments risks erasing yet more indigenous North American history and connection to ancestry and culture.
3) We ALL benefit from keeping wild places wild: If there is one thing that all Americans should agree on, it’s the essentialness of clean water, fresh air, and healthy soil! Protecting our public lands ensures a healthier future for the generations to come. Therefore, protecting public lands should NOT be politicized. Religion, politics, and values aside, we as concerned citizens can come together to advocate for a cleaner environment by continuing to fight against the commodification/privatization of public lands. When people unite on an issue, it is hard to ignore. This is the power of advocacy! Let’s keep this point in mind as we continue our work to protect SLV water from Renewable Water Resources!
4) Public land protections can be reversed just as quickly as they are instated: Public Trust reports on two disappointing reversals of public land protections in the US: Bears Ears National Monument and Alaska’s Arctic Refuge. The Trump administration reduced Bears Ears National Monument’s area by over 80%, leaving sensitive cultural sites and wildlife in danger. As well, nearly 1.6 million acres of the Alaska Arctic Refuge was recently opened for oil and gas leasing, risking the livelihood of sensitive foxes, polar bears, migratory birds, porcupine caribou and other species. While SLVEC has had great success in the past at limiting development in local natural areas, we are aware that conservation is an ongoing struggle. As citizens of any environment, we must stay aware, alert, and engaged in local discussions regarding public land use and development.
5) These lands are worth fighting for:
So many valuable resources come from public lands; from the oxygen we breathe to the water we drink and the landscapes we fall in love with, public lands offer more than any dollar amount! Public lands are for all of us to enjoy, and therefore, we should all be involved in protecting them! Below are several resources for how to become involved:
*To take action with the makers of Public Trust, Text “DEFEND” to 71333.
*To Donate to and support the Gwich'in Nation in protecting the critical Arctic Refuge of which their people depend, visit: http://ourarcticrefuge.org/take-action/