Many visitors to U.S. national parks and monuments—a record 331 million in 2016—seek a hiatus, however fleeting, from the daily grind. But increasingly, they may find themselves face-to-face with some of the things they are trying to escape.

The Trump Administration’s quick-step public lands agenda for 2017 includes budget cuts, expanded resource extraction (mining, logging, drilling, and grazing), shrinking national monument boundaries, and a relaxation of restrictions on problematic activities like the use of plastic bottles.

At Dinosaur National Monument, for example, the Bureau of Land Management plans to auction public land for oil and gas drilling. The drilling site is near the park’s entrance road and will be visible from the visitor center. The BLM says it will take steps to minimize the impact, including light shields, noise mufflers, and “placement of exhaust systems to direct noise away from noise sensitive areas” and “avoiding unnecessary flaring of gas.”

But Mike Murray, who worked as a national park administrator and ranger at Dinosaur National Monument for thirty-four years, calls the decision to auction drilling rights there “indefensible.” The monument’s pitch-black night skies and silent soundscapes have been protected by the Park Service since Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, Murray says in an interview. Visitors, he notes, will now witness “oil rigs instead of a pristine landscape.” And the Trump team’s “total priority” on mining and drilling threatens other values, like “protecting parks for future generations and for wildlife.”  Read More

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