The Trump Administration Sues California Over Public Lands Law in Further Reform of U.S. Environmental Policy.
California lawmakers were dealt a heavy blow last month in the Justice Department’s recent lawsuit over a law that would give state officials the ability to restrict the U.S. government’s ability to sell public lands.
Attorney Jeff Sessions, in a statement recorded by the Washington Post regarding the lawsuit, argued that the law is only the latest in a series of “extreme” attempts to frustrate an embattled federal government. California has been mired in a series of legal conflicts with the Trump Administration in recent months, most notably regarding its sanctuary cities law in early March. Sessions, however, had little comment regarding the actual intent of the public lands law pushed by California Governor Jerry Brown (D).
The law in question was designed to preserve the integrity of California’s wildlands by blocking President Trump’s ability to sell land that is part of the state’s national parks and monuments – a design purpose that only serves to further paint a picture of the Trump Administration as opposed to environmental protection, particularly in the wake of the DOJ’s controversial lawsuit.
Indeed, it should come as no surprise to any American that the Trump Administration has conducted a rather heavy reform of U.S. environmental policy in the President’s first year in office: from its decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement to its lawsuit over California’s public lands law, it is clear that the administration has little regard for many of the crucial environmental regulations put into place under President Barack Obama’s two terms.
Trump’s targeting of national parks in particular is nothing new: just last year, the president decided to significantly reduce the area covered by the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, a decision ultimately met by nearly unanimous backlash from Democratic lawmakers and Native American tribes. The DOJ’s lawsuit – which, first and foremost, claims that California’s new law illegally blocks the government’s management of federal land and is thus in violation of the Constitution – is only a further escalation in Trump’s battle against conservation groups and their goals of preserving the national lands that have drawn Americans for almost 150 years.
The implications of a legal victory for the Trump Administration are immense – for one, such a decision would likely be challenged by California leaders, and set future precedent for possible cases regarding federal policy towards the protection of national lands. On a smaller scale, the repeal of such a law could pave the way towards possible decisions on the future of California’s national parks and monuments in a fashion similar to those made regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. President Trump has on numerous occasions signaled his support for the U.S. mining and drilling industry, a sentiment that may carry over to his siding with the general conservative stance on the economic development of federal lands.
No matter the final court ruling on the case, California leaders have promised to fight for the state’s national lands.
“Our public lands should not be on the auction block to the highest bidder,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement reported by the New York Times. “We’re prepared, as always, to do what it takes to protect our people, our resources, and our values.”
Brandon Kim, Grade 9
Culver City High School