The 6 Biggest Threats to Our Public Lands

Our public lands include the best, most wild parts of our country. From the Grand Canyon to the marshy Everglades, the towering mountains of the Rockies to deep underground caves, public lands protect entire landscapes for us to visit and ecosystems to thrive. But they’re not guaranteed.

Our public lands are facing more threats than ever, and they tend to fall in two categories. First, the extraction industry (mining, fossil fuels, and timber) are pushing harder and harder to eliminate public lands for development. And second, the ecological health of our public lands is degenerating thanks to climate change, overgrazing, and harmful land use management.

 

Shrinking national monuments.

National monuments are currently being reviewed to be shrunk and sold off for oil and gas development. It’s unclear if a president can shrink a monument — but in February 2018, President Trump scaled back Bears Ears by 85% (!) and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50%. Even though 500,000 Americans submitted comments to oppose the order, the Dept. of Interior is reviewing 27 other monuments for being shrunk and sold off. If the courts decide a president can shrink monuments, the President could shrink over 843 million acres of them — about twice the size of Alaska.

 

A growing movement to sell off all public lands.

There’s been a long-simmering fight between the federal government (who manages public lands for us) and Western states that want to develop them. States like Utah, Montana, and Nevada are all trying to find ways to take our wild public lands and turn them over to the extraction industry — mining, fracking, drilling, and deforesting — believing that fossil fuel development is the "highest and best use" of sensitive public lands. Our public lands may belong to all of us now, but there’s a growing movement to sell them for private gain.

 

Fast-tracking oil and gas leases at an alarming rate.

Our public lands are managed for many uses - not just hiking, camping, and climbing. The federal government also leases our public lands to private corporations for logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, and cattle grazing. The problem? Not only does the government sell these leases for dirt cheap, but it’s been selling these leases as quickly as they can in an effort to increase development. Extractive industries shouldn’t get priority over ecological health in public lands.

 

Weakening the public's voice in how public lands are managed.

People keep the public in public lands – and we all have a say in how public lands are managed. When the BLM wants to open a new mine or build a new road, they’re required to take the public’s opinion into consideration. But recent proposals have tried to reduce the public’s say in these decisions, like the Forest Service’s recent scheme to keep the public out of 93% of its decisions.

 

Climate change.

If US public lands were their own country, they’d rank 5th in the world for total greenhouse gas emissions behind China, India, US, and Russia. A first-of-its-kind report from the USGS confirmed that the extraction industry is alive and well in our public lands: mining for coal, drilling for oil, and fracking for gas. The recent report only looked at data from 2005-2014 — so it doesn’t include the recent uptick in extraction thanks to fast-tracked coal/gas/oil leases and dismantling/ignoring the public process in managing public lands. It also doesn’t include the methane and other greenhouse gases associated with grazing — which is also prevalent. Ecosystems are nearly collapsing; glaciers will be gone from Glacier Nat’l Park by 2030, and the Everglades might be swallowed by rising sea levels.

 

Overgrazing on public lands.

Here’s a fact that gave us pause when we first read it: livestock grazing is considered the single most ecologically harmful form of land use in western public lands. Cattle aren’t native to the water-poor west, where they destroy vegetation, compact soil, dirty water with E. coli, increase invasive species, and foster soil erosion. The BLM currently leases out land larger than the size of California and Texas combined to graze livestock, and habitat and species loss is rampant because of it.

 

Let's defend the places we explore.

At Seek More Wilderness, we believe everyone deserves wild places. That’s why we provide outdoor goods that protect public lands. Every order you place with us directly supports the places you adventure, since 50% of all profits are donated to our non-profit partners that celebrate and protect public lands.

Gear up for your next adventure now and become a public land protector!