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Where The Remaining Presidential Candidates Stand On Public Lands

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Lynwood, Calif. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Lynwood, Calif. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first candidate to release a comprehensive conservation and outdoor stewardship platform. This move came ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary elections in California and five other states. Many of the components expand upon current Obama administration policies, to set new and ambitious targets. While neither Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign nor that of Donald Trump has put forth a comprehensive set of policy objectives for land and water conservation, both candidates have made public statements giving some indication of their preferences.

Increasing and Protecting Public Lands

A central part of Hillary’s stewardship plan is to create the “American Parks Trust Fund.” Her factsheet explains that this would essentially expand on the historically bipartisan, but currently underfunded, Land and Water Conservation Fund. Many have called this fund America’s best parks program Clinton would dramatically increase its purse, prioritize urban parks, and include Tribal Nations for eligibility in the program.

Continuing many of President Obama’s priorities, Clinton’s platform also touches on increasing inclusivity and diversity within the park system and keeping public lands public.

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“In recent years, special interest groups have been supporting efforts to dispose of or sell off America’s public lands, which would privatize national forests, national monuments, and even national parks,” Clinton’s plan states. “Clinton strongly opposes these proposals to sell off America’s natural heritage. She will fight to protect the rights of our children and grandchildren to explore the lands and waters that define us as a nation.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). CREDIT: AP Photo/Mic Smith
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). CREDIT: AP Photo/Mic Smith

Though Senator Sanders does not have an official presidential policy platform for these issues, his campaign website expresses similar concern over Republicans wanting to “sell” and “open up” public lands to private activity. The Senator has also frequently voted in favor of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Trump’s statements on public lands have been contradictory. In a January op-ed, Trump described Nevadans living near public lands as “forced to deal with arbitrary and capricious rules that are influenced by special interests that profit from the D.C. rule-making and who fill the campaign coffers of Washington politicians.”

In a later interview with Field and Stream magazine Trump expressed support of keeping currently public lands under federal control. But after being attacked by his former rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the issue, Trump again reversed his position, saying “… we should give that land to everybody and divvy it up or something,” and calling Cruz “sick” and a “liar.” Trump’s campaign website doesn’t mention public lands.

Growing the Outdoor Economy

Clinton’s recent proposal sets an ambitious goal of doubling the size of the outdoor economy within 10 years. These plans expand upon Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel’s announcement in April that the federal government will do a first-ever study to measure outdoor recreation as an economic engine. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation already generates $646 billion in spending each year.

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The Obama Administration Just Gave The Outdoor Economy A Huge BoostCREDIT: Shutterstock Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell kicked off National Parks Week on Tuesday with a major…thinkprogress.orgSanders is in favor of protecting public lands and conserving wildlife habitat, and he recognizes that “National Parks and Forests are an American tradition and a vehicle for economic growth.” However, his commitment to ensuring public access to green spaces is so far light on specifics.

While Donald Trump and his sons have stressed the importance of hunting and fishing, as noted above, his campaign has yet to offer concrete policies on the topic.

Coal, Oil, and Gas Leases on Public Lands

In November 2015, Sanders asked his fellow presidential candidates to join him in backing a ban on new coal, oil, and gas leases on public lands. He is also a cosponsor of S. 2238, the “Keep It in the Ground Act of 2015” which would halt new leases on mining and drilling on federal public lands in the West and off the coasts.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures to a his camouflaged “Make America Great” hat. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures to a his camouflaged “Make America Great” hat. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Clinton advocates for reforming fossil fuel leasing. Her campaign has said that Clinton “believes we should be on a long-term path to a future where there is no extraction of fossil fuels on public lands.” But instead of indefinitely stopping the Department of the Interior from issuing mining and drilling leases, Clinton would first raise federal royalty rates — currently below state and private rates — and close loopholes industry exploits in an attempt to give taxpayers a better deal. She supports President Obama’s recent moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands and would see the ongoing review process through to completion.

Trump, in addition to describing global warming as a hoax by the Chinese, is strongly opposed to President Obama’s review of the federal coal program.

Renewable Energy Production on Public Lands

While both Sanders and Clinton have robust climate change and energy platforms, Trump’s recent energy speech suggests he’d make America gray again. His energy platform does not include any mention of public lands.

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The Environmental Implications Of A Trump PresidencyClimate by CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong If Donald Trump becomes the next president of the United States, well, many…thinkprogress.orgSanders wants to boost investment in renewable energy, but he has focused more on private investments: in-line with his introduction of the “Low Income Solar Act” (S. 1713) geared toward increasing loan and grant programs for solar installations in underserved areas. He is less clear on possible intentions to advance renewables on public lands.

Clinton plans to increase renewable energy production ten-fold on public lands and waters within ten years. Her proposal outlines how her administration would work with the Departments of Interior and Defense to boost renewable energy production, transmit the clean energy to market, and improve labor standards along the production chain.