Republican lawmakers have resuscitated efforts to gut federal land protections in an attempt to change a line of budget rules in the House of Representatives that would allow the government to transfer ownership of national land — including areas like the Grand Canyon and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — to states.
Should they succeed, swaths of awe-inspiring land would be open for private mineral drilling and property development, effectively turning America’s backyard into a bidding war of corporate interests.
It’s a marked difference to the legacy President Barack Obama will leave as he steps down this week.
Never before has the country seen a president as committed to the protection of federal land as Obama: Theodore Roosevelt, largely considered the most devoted of our former presidents to conservationism, protected a fraction of the acres of land and water as our outgoing commander-in-chief. Below, the most significant of the 44th president’s environmental achievements.
- 0: The number of national marine monuments in the Atlantic Ocean that existed before Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a nearly 5,000-square-mile sanctuary off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, last September.
- 3: Newly minted national monuments located in California’s Mojave Desert, totaling 1.8 million acres.
- 5: The number of Native-American tribes party to a commission responsible for helping manage about 1.35 million acres of historic land in Utah. The site, Bears Ears, was home to Pueblos over 3,000 years ago.
- 29: The total number of federal monuments Obama created during his eight years in office.
- 80: Conservative estimate of the percent of land in Nevada owned by the federal government.
- 582,000: Square miles of Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument protected by Obama last August, making it the largest protected marine area on Earth. (Additional figure: 7,000, the number of species that call Papahānaumokuākea home.)
- 550,000,000: A conservative estimate of the number of acres of land Obama has protected during his time in office, handily making him the most land-friendly president in America’s history.