‘Shameful Vote’: 17 Senators Draw Progressive Outrage for Enabling Trump

“You are now responsible for the actions that Ryan Zinke will take as Secretary of the Interior,” reads a letter aimed at 16 Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. “I plan to hold you accountable.”

—by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

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The Fight for Our Public Lands, Wildlife and Economies Begins

Ryan Zinke, a now former Congressman from Montana, has just been confirmed to lead the Department of Interior.  He has a lifetime record of voting against the environment 96% of the time. His confirmation jeopardizes the future of our public lands, and the people, wildlife, and economies that depend on them.

Zinke’s answers to questions during the confirmation process provide insight into how he envisions the Department of Interior will manage millions of acres of federal lands and the natural resources under and on our wild places. When asked if humans have contributed to climate change, he questioned whether we are the driving force. When asked about protecting public lands, he refused to commit to keeping dirty fuels in the ground. He even said that the recent designation of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, lands that are sacred to five Native American tribes with ancestral and spiritual ties to these lands, was one of the “pending problems we need to address quickly.”

Our public lands allow us to experience the majesty of the great outdoors, learn about our country’s history, and honor those whose cultural history dates back millennia. It’s now become imperative that we step up and fight so that future generations can enjoy these places, too.

Further Reading:

How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign and To Sell Off America’s Public Lands

— by Matt Lee-Ashley, Guest Contributor at ThinkProgress-Climate

west land
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/REED SAXON

The recent Cliven Bundy debacle in Nevada put a national spotlight on the long-running, and long-failing, effort by right-wing Western legislators to seize federal public lands and either turn them over to the states or sell them to the highest bidder.

While the renewal of this so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” has thus far been carried out with limited resources by part-time legislators like State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT), new research shows that its leaders are now using taxpayer money from at least 42 counties in nine Western states to advance an aggressive and coordinated campaign to seize America’s public lands and national forests for drilling, mining, and logging.

According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website.

Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions.

Legal experts report that Utah’s law, and similar bills being advanced by ALC and ALEC are in clear violation of Article IV of the Constitution, are in conflict with the laws that established Western states, and would be overturned if ever tested in federal court.

As the American Lands Council has grown in influence and resources, its activities have received new scrutiny. ALC President Ken Ivory, for example, reportedly earned more than $40,000 from the organization in 2012 (his salary for 2013 has not yet been disclosed). According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Ivory’s wife, Becky, also receives payments from the ALC.

A recent fundraising email obtained by ThinkProgress also shows that at least one ALC member, Washington County, Utah Commissioner Alan Gardner, is using his government title and government email account to raise money for ALC’s lobbying efforts and training of political candidates.

The fundraising solicitation that was sent from Gardner’s official government email address on June 13 asks county governments to contribute $1,000 to become a “Bronze” member, $5,000 to become a “Silver” member, or $25,000 to become a “Gold” member of the ALC.  Gardner confirmed to ThinkProgress that he was the author of the email.

The fundraising solicitation says that up to $100,000 will be spent by ALC on a “Campaign Project” aimed at equipping candidates for federal, state, and county office with “materials and resources to build broad based Knowledge and Courage to compel Congress to honor its promise to us and our children to transfer title to the public lands….” Gardner’s email also reports that the funds will be used for lobbyists, a legal team, polling, and engaging the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

ALC’s use of county funds adds to the growing cost to taxpayers of the right-wing land seizure movement. The state of Utah, for example, has already spent more than $500,000 to study a takeover of federal land and has set aside an additional $3 million for legal fees to fight the federal government in court. In Idaho, when the Attorney General’s office questioned the legality of seizing federal lands, legislators in the state spent more than$20,000 on private counsel. In Nevada, a federal land seizure study cost taxpayers more than $66,000, while a special task force to study the issue in Wyoming cost taxpayers$30,000.

In addition to using taxpayer funds to advance unconstitutional bills to seize federal lands, the ALC also relies on financial support from the mining industry and fossil fuel interest groups. Americans for Prosperity, for example — another group financed by the Koch brothers — is listed as a “Bronze Member” of ALC. Mesa Exploration, a mining company whose recent proposal to build a potash mine in an area that the Donner Party crossed in 1846 was recently nixed by federal land managers, is also listed as a “Bronze Member” on ALC’s website.

Matt Lee-Ashley is a senior fellow and director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. You can follow him on Twitter at @MLeeAshley.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Over One Million Voices Signed On to Protect Our Public Lands

— by David Turnbull, Oil Change International

Our public lands are our lands, held and maintained by the Government in trust for the public at large, not the goliath corporations. And in support of that premise, over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some AMAZING response to our petitions to protect our public lands to prevent corporations from fracking our public natural resources. Over a million people from around the country came together to push for protecting our public lands from fracking. Oil Change International, along with our partners in the American’s Against Fracking Coalition, delivered comments from citizens all across our country directly to the White House and Bureau of Land Management in Washington D.C.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the event, showing the power of this coalition coming together:

This campaign was a landmark moment in the fight to protect our communities from the dangers of fracking and is already having an impact. The coalition started with a goal of gathering 200,000 comments and ended up with over a million, including over 600,000 calling for an outright ban of fracking on public lands. This is the largest number of comments calling for a fracking ban ever submitted to the Obama Administration.

It’s actions like this – and people like you – that will help us reclaim our democracy from the grip of the fossil fuel industry. So, we simply wanted to say: Thank you. Thank you for standing up, for raising your voices with us, and for demanding better from our leaders.

Together we’re pushing back against corporate influence and making sure our elected leaders know who they’re accountable to: the people they represent, not rich polluters. We’ll be watching the Bureau of Land management closely to make sure our public lands (and all lands) are protected from fracking and other fossil fuels.

Rest assured there will be more fights against dirty fossil fuels, but thanks to your recent efforts, we’ve now got an even stronger foundation.

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