The old Frederick Douglass line, “If there is no struggle there is no progress,” has become all the more relevant in recent weeks.
Last Wednesday, we made progress in protecting America’s public lands. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced he’d withdraw legislation that would’ve put 3.3 million acres of federal public lands up for sale.
Environmentalists and conservationists, and even hunters and fisherman, saw the writing on the wall. Selling off public lands or transferring them to state governments risks less public access and more oil and gas drilling.
Chaffetz sure wasn’t hiding his intentions. He said the lands “serve no public purpose, so let’s sell them back to private hands.”
After numerous petitions and rallies, including over a thousand people packed in Montana’s capitol building, Chaffetz was forced to back off. He made the announcement on his Instagram, writing, “I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.” He even used the #keepitpublic hashtag, which sprung up during the campaign to kill the bill.
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The real purpose of public land is to protect the environment and provide democratic access. We own it collectively, which means everyone can spend time in nature, rich or poor. Protected lands and national parks also benefit the economies of local communities.
This is an important win for the struggle ahead. A number of legislators continue to push hard to sell off public lands. Bills have been introduced to streamline mining on public lands and ease drilling in national parks.
Struggle will continue on many fronts in the Trump era, but how we win is becoming clear. Pay attention, come together, and show up locally. By fighting for what we collectively own—public goods and services—we can make progress.
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