For 30 years, my grandfather – Wallace Barron – served as a Game Warden in northern Maine. He was a hunter, a fisher, and a trapper. He recycled long before it was trendy. He was a man who took stewardship and respect for the land seriously. He was also a life-long Republican. The older I get, the more and more I hear people in my family say how much I look like my Grandpa – and I smile every time someone says it. I am proud that I not only inherited his devious crooked smile and furrowed brow, but also his appreciation for the land and his allegiance to the Grand Old Party.
Over the last few decades, it has become trendy in certain Republican circles to push for the dismantling of our federal public lands. Think tankers and establishment elites in Washington have pushed the Republican Party to adopt policies that would transfer public lands to the states and privatize our park system.
This push has been at odds with the party’s history of support for public lands. Indeed, it was a Republican President – Teddy Roosevelt – who first created the United States Forest Service, in addition to establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments during his presidency.
As a candidate, Donald Trump made it clear that he did not support efforts such as the transfer of federal public lands to the states, telling Field & Stream magazine that, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do.”
Trump also pledged to be a great steward of our federal lands during his campaign for President, saying, “We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”
As an enthusiastic supporter of President Trump, I am thrilled that, so far, he has been true to his word. President Trump appointed former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to serve as his Secretary of the Interior. Zinke is a self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” and strong supporter of our federal public lands.
There are some, however, led by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who are urging President Trump to issue an Executive Order removing the National Monument status from 1.35 million acres in Utah known as the Bears Ears National Monument and urging him to abandon his support for federal public lands and our park system.
President Trump should not bow to pressure from Rep. Bishop and think tank elites in Washington.
At the behest of five Native American tribes with ties to the land, President Barack Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, to designate the land in Utah a national monument.
Attempting to remove the national monument designation by Executive Order would be a mistake – and one that may not even be Constitutional.
President Trump should stay focused on the big challenges facing our country — defeating ISIS, securing our border, reforming healthcare and creating jobs. If Rep. Bishop is unhappy with the Bears Ears national monument designation, then the appropriate remedy is a legislative one. President Trump’s important agenda should not be hijacked by a member of Congress who is unable to pass legislation in his own chamber on this issue.
It is a mistake not only because it is a legally questionable distraction but also because it would put the interests of the inside the beltway think tank elites above the interests of working class men and women who opinion polls show strongly support defending our public lands and our national park system.
President Trump has emulated much of Teddy Roosevelt in his blunt-spoken approach, his willingness to buck the establishment, and his commitment to America First policies at home and abroad. President Trump would be well-served to continue to follow in President Roosevelt’s footsteps by standing up for our federal public lands.
Christopher Barron is a conservative strategist who was the organizer of LGBT for Trump and the co-founder of GOProud.