The 10 public lands and wildlife protections most likely to be removed by Trump

Nov 10, 2020

  Commentary: The Center for Western Priorities today released an updated tracker identifying 70 policy changes that the Interior department hopes to complete before the end of the Trump administration. Those policies include advancing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reducing protections for endangered species and migratory birds, and dramatically expanding drilling opportunities on public lands, despite weak demand and a surge of bankruptcies across the industry.

“The nation and the world is looking forward to the leadership of a Biden administration, but the next ten weeks are fraught with danger,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director at the Center for Western Priorities. “We expect Interior Secretary Bernhardt to unleash a torrent of policies and rule changes that would have been politically toxic before the election.”

In addition, the Interior Department has publicly identified plans to remove or downgrade protections for dozens of plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act. Those changes come after the department removed protections for the gray wolf despite near-unanimous calls from the public and scientists to keep the wolf on the endangered species list.

The Center for Western Priorities started tracking the Interior Department’s rule changes at the beginning of 2020. Since then, the department has finalized 20 of those policies, including land use plans to allow increased development in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and weakening air quality standards for offshore drilling.

“Over the remaining 72 days of the Trump administration, Secretary Bernhardt will no doubt be racing to finalize even more controversial policies that benefit his former and future clients in extractive industries,” Prentice-Dunn added.

The Center for Western Priorities identified the ten rule and policy changes with a realistic possibility of being finalized that pose the most risk to America’s public lands and wildlife:

  1. Approving seismic testing and auctioning oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

  2. Allowing oil and gas companies to inadvertently kill migratory birds, including in oil spills, without penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

  3. Further weakening the Endangered Species Act by limiting which habitat can be protected

  4. Amending long-term management plans to expand drilling and mining opportunities on public lands in the following areas:

  5. Reopening loopholes to allow oil, gas, and coal companies to skirt royalties owed to taxpayers

  6. Weaken safety regulations for exploratory offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic

  7. Reducing environmental and regulatory reviews to speed the process of timber sales on public lands

  8. Allowing baiting of brown bears and increased trapping in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

  9. Expanding opportunities to privatize services in national parks

  10. Allowing property owners to veto listings on the National Register of Historic Places