Critics say a new order from the Interior Department kneecaps a conservation effort that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden has spoken with some GOP senators, chief of staff says Trump told advisers he could announce 2024 bid shortly after certification of Biden win: report Ivy League cancels winter sports amid US COVID-19 pandemic surge MORE routinely campaigned on.
Trump regularly touted the Great American Outdoors Act on the campaign trail, a bipartisan bill he signed in August that solidifies more than $900 million in funding each year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The fund is designed to allow the federal government acquire land for parks, trails and conservation purposes, but a Friday order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt gives governors and even county commissioners the ability to veto any purchases of private land by requiring “written expression of support.”
“It’s a clear interference with private property rights and that the big irony here is that it’s coming from the party claiming to support personal liberty and private property flights. They’re trying to give every county commission and governor in the country veto power over private land owners who want to sell their land to the government at fair market rates,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group.
The Great American Outdoors Act and its funding for LCWF was a remarkable turnaround for the Trump administration, who previously proposed nearly eliminating the program in every previous budget.
But support for conservation efforts gained new momentum in the Trump administration as Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerTrump administration submits list of conservation projects after the deadline Five takeaways from the battle for the Senate Susan Collins: ‘We must all respect the outcome of elections’ MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump administration submits list of conservation projects after the deadline OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord Winners and losers from 2020’s election MORE (R-Mont.) headed into tough reelection battles.
Just after the election, however, Interior missed an important deadline for submitting its list of proposed LWCF projects to Congress, doing so a week late.
“At best, the administration is incompetent at following its own laws,” the Sierra Club said in a statement referencing the missed deadline.
“At worst, they had no intention of upholding the law in the first place. We are hopeful President-elect Biden will live up to the spirit of the law to build a safer and more equitable outdoors for all.”
The delay even earned criticism from some Republicans.
“If this truly were urgent, if this were a priority, then you would’ve had this list years ago. If you had this … huge priority of acquisitions, you could’ve produced this list at the drop of a hat,” Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden expected to issue swift reversals on climate | Senate proposes spending increase at environmental agencies | Court halts permits for contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline Trump administration submits list of conservation projects after the deadline House GOP seeks to cement Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law MORE (R-La.), who voted against the bill, told The Hill Monday.
The order also requires the department to prioritize land acquisitions for the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, something that would sideline the Bureau of Land Management.
“This administration can’t resist the urge to break the law, and this order is a perfect example of why they can’t be trusted to protect our environment,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement to The Hill.
“They have no interest in conservation; even with clear direction and guidance from Congress they are doing their best to sabotage the Land and Water Conservation. They’re just trying to smash and grab whatever they can on their way out the door when they should focus on working with the Biden transition team.”
The Interior order comes after President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden has spoken with some GOP senators, chief of staff says Trump told advisers he could announce 2024 bid shortly after certification of Biden win: report Obama ‘troubled’ by GOP attempts to cast doubt on election results: ‘That’s a dangerous path’ MORE was declared the winner of the 2020 election on Saturday. Biden has pledged as president to reverse Trump administration environmental policies, such as reentering the Paris Climate Accords.
Source: The Hills