Your Public Lands Are Killing You: We are squandering millions of acres of our children’s inheritance and using it to destroy the planet

Today’s opinion page of the New York Times includes this piece by Timothy Egan. Highlights from Egan’s column are printed below. Here’s some background on Egan, an award winning writer and author who has won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize:

Timothy Egan worked for 18 years as a writer for The New York Times, first as the Pacific Northwest correspondent, then as a national enterprise reporter.

In 2006, Mr. Egan won the National Book Award for his history of people who lived through the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time.” The book also became a New York Times best seller.

In 2001, he won the Pulitzer Prize as part of a team of reporters who wrote the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” He has done special projects on the West and the decline of rural America, and he has followed the entire length of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Mr. Egan is the author of five books, including “The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest,” and “Lasso the Wind, Away to the New West.” He lives in Seattle. Mr. Egan’s column appears every Friday.

Almost 25 percent of American earth-warming emissions originate from industrial action involving public land or offshore leases.

The United States is the biggest carbon polluter in history, and now ranks behind only China in greenhouse gas emissions. As well, we’re now the largest crude oil producer in the world. And we’ve become a leading exporter of that oil, just to show how bad of a global citizen we can be.

If you force the Trump administration to stop bingeing on public land, you can make an immediate impact on the amount of earth-warming carbon the United States spits into the atmosphere….

Another big step is to prevent David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, from becoming interior secretary. A stooge for his former clients, this Trump nominee was the deputy secretary, while the top job was held by a strange man, Ryan Zinke, who paraded around on a horse named Tonto.

It was Bernhardt who tried to block release of a federal analysis showing that two widely used pesticides were so toxic that they ‘jeopardize the continued existence‘ of more than 1,200 species of birds, fish and other life-forms without lobbyists, as my colleague Eric Lipton reported this week.

You can see who Bernhardt is working for: It’s not all the living things under the domain of the emperor of the outdoors. Nor is he looking out for the interests of children, who will have to live with the consequences of action taken by adults in service to carbon pollution.

About those kids: Senator Mike Lee of Utah recently took to the floor of his chamber to say that the best response to the mounting chaos of epic floods, searing wildfires and other symptoms of a sick earth is to get married and have children.

What he didn’t say was that we hold our public land in trust for the Americans of tomorrow. The least we can do is stop using it to imperil their world.

5 thoughts on “Your Public Lands Are Killing You: We are squandering millions of acres of our children’s inheritance and using it to destroy the planet”

  1. I did not realize that the U.S. is now the largest petroleum producer in the world. What is Tim’s source to make that claim?

  2. Oh, another anti Bernhardt op-ed. It seems to be part of an orchestrated media campaign. So glad those forces aren’t bugging the Sec of Ag.

    There’s one overwhelming logical problem with this (my expertise is as the former R-2 climate change lead for the FS and a reviewer of many EAs and EISs for oil and gas and coal).

    If we don’t produce oil and gas on public lands we will simply er… not use gas in the snowplows that are digging us out in today’s snowfall? Not use natural gas for heating? Just like that?

    That doesn’t seem very realistic. What happens is that we will get the same amount from more private lands (already producing 75%) or buy it from other countries, some nice (like Canada) and some potentially not so nice. I’ve seen op-eds from military folks who kind of like not being beholden to other countries for something that is a foundation of our current living (otherwise known as the economy).

    What happens if we get it from other countries? We lose the jobs, lose the $ that go to the States and the Treasury (and LWCF), we don’t know about the environmental impacts of extraction but they might not be as regulated), AND we probably pay more, which translates to higher heating and food and transportation costs.. Which could easily have impacts on the poor- who can’t afford to get to work or heat their houses. And poor people have kids too. Kids who need to eat and live in heated houses.

    Somehow there is a narrative that goes “the way to stop climate change is to stop producing” but in reality the way to stop climate change is to stop using fossil fuels, and if that transition is not to unduly impact the poor, then we have to figure out how.

    As in other media campaigns, and for the logical reasons given above, I don’t think that this is really about climate change solutions.

  3. Is there any doubt about Bernhardt’s confirmation? Not sure what the use of making a stink is. Efforts might be better spent on policies more appealing to a broader portion of the electorate, until then the President nominates and the senate confirms and that’s how it is. Besides, he’s from Rifle, not a bad town for a Sec Int.

    I too am confused as to how oil from despotic middle east regimes doesn’t pollute but from our public lands does, not sure it works that way. The leave it in the ground mantra only works if we end imports, when that happens I’d be all for it.

    To my mind we’ve had a pretty good run of Secretaries. Salazar, Jewel, Zinke, all worked out ok, someone from the outdoor rec industry was actually more concerning to me than an oil lobbyist.

    I like most of the stuff Egan writes, been reading him ever since he started with the op ed page, not sure I’m with him on this one.


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