Republican-dominated government ignores calls for conservation efforts

A battle over America’s public land is looming on the horizons, despite decades of consistent and unwavering support from voters of both major parties for the protection of land and water – not to mention the thousands of jobs and the billions of dollars in economic revenue that these natural resources create and sustain.

Last week, the United States Senate voted 51-to-49 in support of an amendment to a nonbinding budget resolution that would allow the selling or giving away of federal lands, national parks and monuments.

In the event that this measure is executed in the future, hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, wildlife sanctuaries, rangelands and historical locations will be given up to state or local governmental control or auctioned off.

The aforementioned pieces of land make up the majority of what is left of America’s natural and historical legacy.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, a 228-to-119 vote in the House of Representatives approved another nonbinding reform that supports states and localities having more control over the resources within their borders. Both measures are supported only by the Republicans – who control both houses.

Both measures also set the precedent that America’s public lands, which have long been protected by the government and allocated for its people, may soon be up for grabs.

In the future, Congress will also decide whether or not to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was created in 1965 and is financed by fees that are paid by oil companies for drilling offshore.

The program endorses and funds state and local parks and recreation projects, conservation efforts for farms and ranches, as well as national parks, forests and wildlife sanctuaries. About $17 billion has been spent over the years and another $19 billion was redirected by Congress for other purposes.

Conservation efforts have long been an area of common ground and interest for the majority of voters. Since 1988, about $71.7 billion has been authorized to protect land in 43 different states, while $13.2 billion was approved by voters in just the past year.

And conservation efforts benefit more than just the land.

According to a report done by the Department of the Interior in 2013, our national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges were extremely beneficial to the American economy. In total, they tallied about 407 million visits, poured about $41 billion to the economy and helped support 355,000 jobs.

It’s no wonder that the majority of voters are on board with conservation efforts but unfortunately, this general consensus is now being ignored.

As Congress is controlled by the GOP and the GOP is controlled by its paymasters, the will of the people – and a historically bipartisan commitment to protecting our land and heritage – is seemingly insignificant.

The message that is being sent is that our nation’s best interest is second-best to the almighty dollar and I’m afraid our leaders won’t realize this until it’s too late.

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