Originally Published by Las Vegas Sun
By: David L. Bernhardt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Local communities are essential partners in the successful conservation of public lands, and no president in recent memory has done more to work with local communities and advance conservation than President Donald Trump.
He signed the Great American Outdoors Act and the Dingell Act (which designated more than 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, among other things), expanded hunting and fishing opportunities by a record 4 million acres nationwide, treated a record 5.4 million acres of lands to prevent wildfires, joined the One Trillion Trees Initiative and established big-game migration corridors throughout the West.
Through these actions and many more, the Trump administration has prioritized sound public land management and executed reforms that benefit local communities and millions of Americans who rely on and visit our public lands. Yet the Las Vegas Sun editorial board recently published an unfortunate distortion of reality, attempting to undermine Trump’s conservation successes and the historic nature of the Great American Outdoors Act, which is the single largest investment in our public lands in American history.
The Sun editorializes that the Great American Outdoors Act has been “gutted” post-election in its implementation, and our efforts to collaborate with state and local governments regarding federal land acquisitions would “breed corruption” with local officials who would likely be “bribed” in order to prevent these actions from taking place.
The paper’s editors may think little of their state and local elected leaders, but it is simply good governance to coordinate federal actions with those who are directly affected by federal decision-making. Doing otherwise breeds only contempt and generates hostility toward a conservation program that needs everyone’s support.
At issue is a secretary’s order that I signed in November, which describes how the Department of the Interior is implementing the Great American Outdoors Act consistent with the law in most effectively conserving our natural resources and promoting outdoor recreation. The act, which passed only because of Trump’s support to overcome primarily intraparty opposition, permanently and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year and provides $9.5 billion over the next five years to address the significant deferred maintenance needs at national parks, refuges and other public lands.
In the secretary’s order, I make it clear that we are prioritizing investments that increase public access for recreation, enhance conservation, and support recovery of endangered species. We are also increasing flexibility for how states and local communities spend and match LWCF grants, in addition to giving governors and local officials, who are directly affected by LWCF projects, a voice in the process.
Congress established the LWCF in 1964, yet it has been fully funded only twice prior to the enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act. The reason for tepid funding is the lack of state and local support for more federal land acquisitions in states such as Nevada, where more than 85% of the land is managed by the federal government. The secretary’s order demonstrates a commitment to state and local leaders that Interior will work with them to implement a successful program.
We are continuing to move full speed ahead with LWCF conservation projects. The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are leveraging more than $125 million for 46 conservation projects in 2021. Another approximately $1.6 billion will be invested into more than 160 deferred maintenance projects, which had long been neglected by numerous previous administrations.
Some of these deferred maintenance projects directly benefit Nevada, with the Bureau of Land Management beginning the process to repair the road to Sand Mountain, a popular off-road recreation area, to eliminate safety hazards and restore efficient access for law enforcement and emergency services; demolish unsafe buildings in Eureka; rehabilitate dilapidated assets at a popular recreation area on the east slope of the Sierra Mountains in the Indian Creek Recreation Area; build a new fire station quarters in Orovada; repair radio infrastructure across all of BLM-managed lands in the state to provide a communication system for fire suppression, law enforcement and emergency responses; and begin construction on or complete other important projects to improve drinking water, water systems, utilities and public access in Lake Mead and at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
None of these projects would have likely been funded without Trump’s leadership in passing the Great American Outdoors Act.
Interior utilizes a process that carefully evaluates each land acquisition project in partnership with state and local elected leaders. There is nothing underhanded about conservation partnerships. However, a decision-making process located exclusively in Washington, D.C., and without a strong state and local voice would erode the public’s confidence in the LWCF. The more than 500 million visitors to our public lands deserve better than the misrepresentations made by the Las Vegas Sun editorial board.