Years ago, serendipity took me to the banks of the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Around 2:00 a.m., tucked gratefully away from the cold in a sleeping bag and tent, a strange symphony roused me – staccato clicks, deep grunts, and gentle mewing.
Puzzled, I got up and opened my tent. Flowing around our three tents were countless Porcupine caribou cows with their calves like salmon swimming upstream around big boulders.
This summer, the Trump Administration finalized plans to open this area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain to drilling. Among the casualties: this great caribou migration under the midnight sun and the way of life for the indigenous Gwich’in.
This is just the latest decision by President Donald Trump that prioritizes the ephemeral sourcing of energy over an eternal landscape.
His administration needlessly revived a Canadian company’s efforts to develop a gold mine on the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the last large wild salmon fishery left in the world.
He supported a Chilean company which wants to develop a copper mine on the edge of the pristine Boundary Waters Wilderness utilizing a highly destructive mining technology.
He reduced the boundaries of the Grand Staircase Escalante and Bear’s Ears National Monuments by 85%.
He relentlessly pursues an “energy dominance” strategy to maximize the production of fossil fuels on public lands, while utterly failing to balance ecological costs, resulting in degradation of wildlife corridors and cold-water fish refuges and abandonment of collaborative solutions for managing wildlife, such as sage grouse.
He gutted the century old Migratory Bird Treaty Act by eliminating enforcement of avoidable “incidental” takes by industrial activities that kill birds.
He has slanted the National Environmental Policy Act interpretation wholly in favor of energy development, while disregarding sound scientific analysis and cumulative impacts to our land, water, air and wildlife.
No one should be fooled by President Trump greenwashing his abysmal conservation record by comparing himself to President Theodore Roosevelt. Not since the opposition to Galileo’s and Copernicus' views that the earth circled the sun have we seen a government so opposed to science. His administration has demonstrated the least interest in conservation or the environment of any prior administration.
Our nation needs a President who understands that conservation is a great central task that will accelerate our recovery from the interconnected health, economic, social justice, and climate crises we face. We need someone who understands that natural resource conservation and restoration investments create jobs, reduce threats from extreme weather and wildfires, improve air and water quality, provide habitat for imperiled wildlife and sequester carbon.
This is why I — a proud, lifelong Republican — am voting for Joe Biden. I have never before endorsed a Democrat for President.
Joe Biden will work to restore our nation’s mosaic of grasslands, wetlands, and forests. He will end the short-term exploitation of our public lands. He will inspire youth from all backgrounds to serve in a 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Equally important, Joe Biden’s collaborative leadership style and respect for differing views and ways of life has the potential to bridge our nation’s growing urban and rural divide. He knows natural resource management is most effective and enduring when decision-making is truly inclusive. Place by specific place, his Administration will respect the local knowledge and the economic needs of those living closest to the resource, especially historically disenfranchised Indigenous communities and communities of color.
Ensuring our natural resources are enhanced and not impaired in value is essential to building an equitable, just and resilient future. President Trump does not get this. America needs a leader who does.
Theodore Roosevelt IV is a conservationist, investment banker, Vietnam War veteran, and the great-great grandson of the 26th president.
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