President Trump wants to ensure his pro-corporation, anti-environmentalist, climate change-denying legacy before President-elect Biden is inaugurated and is making moves to allow mining of natural resources on federally-protected lands, the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton reports.
In his last days in office, Trump is moving forward on projects in numerous states that would grant energy firms access to lands that were previously off limits.
One project in Arizona would transfer federally-protected forest land to build a gigantic copper mine. Local Apache tribes considered the land chosen for the project as sacred, as they believe it is “a place of profound religious, spiritual, and cultural importance,” accordinng to the National Register of Historic Places.
In Twin Bridges, located in Utah, the Trump administration wants to open up wilderness land for a helium drilling project. A coalition of environmental groups is now suing the administration to block leasing of the land to a drilling company.
“It’s truly stunning how brazen the Trump administration has been these past four years in serving up our pristine, iconic landscapes to industry,” Josh Axelrod, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Its race to secure this project’s approval for the helium industry’s benefit is flatly illegal, and we’ll defend this special area at every turn.”
Another project in northern Nevada, which is close to obtaining final approval, is planned to build an open-pit lithium mine near the site of a prehistoric volcano. And the administration wants to build a natural gas pipeline through Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.
And there are more, including a uranium mine in South Dakota. The Oglala Lakota Nation is suing to stop that from moving forward, as they claim the land was illegally taken from the Sioux tribe by the United States government.
Signaling he will move in a different direction, Biden has selected Native American Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as his Interior Secretary nominee. And thankfully, Biden will have the power to stop at least some of the Trump administration’s last-minute attempts. But, the Times reports, other projects like the Nevada lithium mine might not be reversible.
While in office, Trump has all but declared war on our public protected lands, shrinking national parks by record amounts. As a former San Carlos Apache tribal leader told the Times of the Arizona copper mine project, “This is a disaster.”