By on November 15, 2016

Public Lands Under Serious Threat

Protesters gathered on Town Square Saturday to stand in solidarity with people across the country who became the targets of hate crimes this past week. (Photo: Robyn Vincent)

Protesters gathered on Town Square Saturday to stand in solidarity with people across the country who became the targets of hate crimes this past week. (Photo: Robyn Vincent)

Folks in the West love our public lands, and for many reasons; the ample places to hunt, fish, camp, hike, ride and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors are a significant reason they choose to live, work and raise our families where we do.

That’s just one segment of our cherished way of life that was on the line during the recent election. To folks on the coasts, it may seem insignificant, but to most people in the Rocky Mountain West these are integral parts of our heritage.  And it was on our minds in the ballot box.

President-elect Trump signaled openness to keeping the lands great on the campaign trail when asked if he supported plans to transfer nationally owned lands to individual states.  Let’s hope he continues that commitment because there’s a lot at stake.

However, not everyone agrees.  The leader of the land transfer movement is the American Lands Council (ALC), a group founded in 2012 to try to force the federal government to turn over publically owned lands to local jurisdictions.

The dreams of Jennifer Fielder and the ALC is for local counties and states to take over what is currently public land, owned by all U.S. taxpayers, and managed by the federal government. In their pie-in-the-sky scenario, more revenue can be culled from our public lands through more aggressive logging, mining, grazing and development of these lands for direct revenue generation.  This, they say, will leave counties and states flush with cash.

Transferring public lands to local jurisdictions means transferring the management responsibilities – and the significant management costs – as well.

The cost of forest fire suppression by federal agencies alone has ballooned in recent years, surpassing $2 billion dollars in 2015 when agencies battled almost 70,000 individual fires.  The U.S. Forest Service projects that by 2025, over 67% of it’s budget will be spent on fire suppression, up from just over 50% in 2015 and a mere 16% in 1995.  States and counties simply do not have the funding, expertise or equipment to manage the increasing occurrence of fires and protect these lands.  

Elections are a valued part of our democracy, but they sometimes have unintended consequences.  Let’s hope President-elect Trump holds to his word, and keeps our valued public lands in public hands for us all to enjoy.  And we stand ready to work with him to accomplish this.

– Chris Saeger
Director, Western Values Project

Taking the Country Back

I am heartbroken and I am angry. I woke up on Wednesday in a country I do not recognize. Once again the Electoral College is going to make a man the President who did not win a majority of the votes. I refuse to accept the wait-and-see attitude about Donald Trump—we know who he is. He is a man who has only ever cared about himself. He has never done a hard days work in his life, he has scammed and bilked people who have done work for him, and he has done everything in his power to avoid paying for his fair share. He is a sexual abuser. He is a racist. He is a liar who lied more during this campaign than any other candidate. He is crude and violent, and he lashes out at the slightest insult or provocation. And he knows nothing about the world, our government, or American democracy. Worst of all, he is a paranoid conspiracy nut who believes things like climate change are a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and he is going to be handed the keys of the most powerful military and intelligence agencies on the planet.

I will not sit idly by and let this disaster unfold. I will do whatever I can to resist, disrupt, and dismantle his machinations. I care much more about preserving what is good about this country for future generations than I do about accepting the outcome of this travesty.

If you voted for Trump: good riddance. We don’t seem to live in the same reality. You have created a monster and it is now your duty to try and prevent him from destroying our democracy. It will be your fault if he succeeds.

If you did not vote then you enabled this to happen. Six million people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 did not show up this time around. If you sat idly by, then you let the angriest 25 percent of Americans unleash this horror on the world. You must now watch things unravel around you for the next four years and think about the consequences of your inaction. You must not look away.

For those who are marginalized, who are scared, who are targets, whose lives have been made much more terrifying today: I stand with you. I will stand up for you. Your lives matter. And no matter how long it takes, the long arm of history bends toward justice. We will take this country back.

– Olaus Linn
Wilson, WY

Dem Disillusionment

I am just so angry at the Democratic Party. It completely failed us. You cheated your own party members. You corrupted your own nomination process. And you brought us Trump. You screwed the country by screwing the process. It just had to be Hillary… Well, no it didn’t. You tried to cheat for her and force her into office and the people said NO. Now we’re ALL stuck dealing with the consequences of your dishonesty and your disrespect of the democratic process.

Wyoming’s state Democratic Party, with its obvious predetermined preference for Clinton, has plenty of guilt to share in this too. As does every single “super” delegate who refused to represent the will of the caucus voters in this state. And anyone who willfully turned a blind eye to the cheating revealed by Wikileaks. You’re complicit. You’ve all done a great disservice to your party and to this nation.

This is your fault, Democrats. It’s not the third parties, it’s not the FBI, it’s not the media, it’s the Democratic Party’s fault, period. You need to own up to the mess you have created and quit scapegoating and looking for someone else to blame. And then you need to listen and you need to change so that something like this can never. happen. again. Otherwise, I hope you never recover from this and that a new, decent and honest party that actually strives to represent the people emerges from your ashes.

– Jay Wright
Jackson, WY

Stop Hoping, Start Doing

I saw a lot of red eyes on November 9, a lot of stunned people who looked like they hadn’t had much sleep, or had aged a couple years overnight. In terms of people’s moods, it was perhaps one of the weirdest days I have ever experienced. Slightly different than the morning after a mass tragedy, but similar enough.

 I thought about what the day would have looked like had Hilary won. Or what did happen after Obama won in 2008 and 2012. At least among my co-workers, neighbors, and peers, this presented sighs of relief and a bit of a fanfare before, largely, it was back to business as usual. The part where we allow the torch to be passed to our next leader, then step back into our lives, hoping our newly elected leader will follow through with their promises.

In a way, Trump is the president we need. Not for what he can do or has promised to do, but for what we, as citizens of this country, will do, and have to do, in order to fight the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, egomaniacal, and environmentally destructive promises and rhetoric of his campaign. He is the president that is already lighting the fire for people to stand up in what they believe in and get to work on the issues they care about. Unlike many other great leaders, it’s not a call to action to stand with, but rather a call to action to stand up, and stand up for. We’ve become complacent, and too comfortable in the privileged bubbles we occupy.

I’ve seen the word “hope” thrown around a lot this last week. Obama had a great lead-off with his “Hope” campaign in 2008, but never had the follow through, same goes for our elected representatives. There’s a thing about hope; it really doesn’t accomplish much. Derrick Jensen penned a piece, Beyond Hope, that I recommend you read. He ends with the following:

“When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.
And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.
In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.”

Now we must stop hoping and start doing. Regardless of who you voted for, there better be a fire under your ass. Frustrated and don’t know quite what to do? Go bang some nails with Habitat for Humanity, or go bang on the doors of our new (and our returning) elected officials; hold them accountable for their promises, and let your voice be heard. Don’t unplug because the election is over. Fan those flames, for tomorrow is a new day.

– Ben Johnson
Jackson, WY

Trade Playtime for Politics

Dear Jackson,

I miss you, the peaks, the rivers, and, most of all, the friends, my Jackson family. But that is not what this is about.

While some may be tempted to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt, early indicators on the makeup of his administration are not promising. Famous global climate change skeptic Myron Ebell is poised to head the EPA, while Forrest Lucas, from Lucas Oil, is the candidate most widely reported to lead the Interior Department (National Parks, etc.).

So what comes next? I, like many of you, am heartbroken and distraught at the election outcome. I tossed and turned last night, getting very little sleep, as I contemplated that question. Leaving the country is an option some have toyed with, as is the idea of burying our heads in the sand and hiding for the next four years. But those paths abandon our brethren at a crucial time in our countries’ history. The only option is to stand for what is important—love, kindness, the environment, our communities, family, friends, all of it. There have been encouraging early signs that, as a result of this election others are ready to employ fierce organized action to protect these values from the threat posed by a Trump presidency. And this is a call to arms for you to join them.

The fight for the future is paved with participation. Perhaps the easiest way to become engaged in what is going on in your community is to go to a meeting. Fucking seriously go to a town council or county commission meeting. As someone who is on the front lines of municipal action every day, (full disclosure, I am currently employed as a city planner in a small city outside Portland, OR) I can tell you there is likely nothing more important than participation. Those who show up make the rules, or at least know about them.

I truly, truly love you all but I am tired of being a fighter, an advocate, while the rest of you make excuses why you can’t. Families, jobs, traveling the world, fishing, bike rides and ski tours are no longer valid excuses not to participate. You are creative, you are smart, find a way to blow up those reasons and make waves in your own way in regards to the issues that are important to you. Form a collective of friends that can coordinate local committee or council meeting attendance and report back what you find, or host a multi-family evening day care event so folks don’t need to find a sitter to participate in such a collective. All options are on the table, figure out what works for you and your community.

Being creatively engaged, especially now, after this election, is paramount to maintaining what amounts to our birthright in this country. Clean air, clean water, public lands, free speech, human rights, due process, health care, science, and diversity are rights I for one am willing to fight for. And there are many other reasons, your personal reasons, local reasons, to stand tall, to stay vigilant in what are assuredly to be frustrating times for those of us who had a different future in mind.

What comes next will not be easy I can imagine, but retreat from this challenge is not an option.

All hope is not lost, Jackson Hole. You have great local leaders that have been elected and re-elected. And the resources available in the valley are numerous. Therefore, I would challenge you, you shining, beautiful residents of the most glorious place I have ever been fortunate to call home, to bring this message of hope and solidarity to others outside your sphere of influence. Be a champion for those that might have fewer means or less access by which to fight for themselves. It may sound simple but build your tribe and don’t get sucked into the negativity coming from the media machine.

Get out there and adventure, bag the peaks, run the rivers, and celebrate life. But heed Ed Abbey’s words that the other half of your life is dedicated to a fight for your land and clean water and all of the things that make life worth living.

Stand tall and fight on.

– Ryan Krueger
Troutdale, OR

About Various Authors

Sometimes it takes a village.

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