President Joe Biden’s Colorado Camp Hale order is a mistake


Behind the celebratory news about President Biden designating Colorado’s Camp Hale as the newest national monument is the growing reality that his policies are threatening our nation’s largest sources of conservation funding.

Consequently, the funding needed to maintain our nation’s treasured sites for decades to come simply may not exist, and anyone who cares about our national parks and monuments should be alarmed.

Camp Hale has a special place in Colorado history as home to the Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War II. Soldiers stationed there endured extremely rugged conditions and were uniquely prepared for critical Allied victories against Germany in inhospitable territories like the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

Post-war, the young men from the 10th came home and transformed America’s recreational economy. Notably, they created the thriving ski industry we know today. While little still exists of the camp, the footprint provides a meaningful glimpse into our past.

Biden’s visit to Colorado this week offers the chance to take a sober look at the president’s conservation record. What you’ll find is less than illustrious.

Biden is putting at risk funding for the two largest federal conservation programs under the Great American Outdoors Act that was signed into law in 2020. The law created the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, which provides $1.9 billion annually for projects in national parks and other public lands. It also permanently funds the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually for the first time since the program was created 58 years ago.

The combined $2.8 billion is the largest investment in public lands in our nation’s history. That is, if the Biden administration doesn’t spoil it.

The Legacy Restoration Fund is paid for by federal royalties from energy produced on non-park, non-wilderness public lands. Oil and natural gas provide 91% of the dollars available for this program. Coal provides 8% while wind provides 0.1% and solar zero. The Land and Water Conservation Fund receives 100% of its funding from offshore oil and natural gas production.

Colorado has benefited greatly from these conservation programs. The state has received $67 million for conservation projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, San Luis Valley, Grand Junction, and other public lands. Yet millions more are still needed for lingering projects.

Biden has made his opposition to federal oil and natural gas development on public lands well known. As a candidate, he promised no oil development on federal lands. Since January 2021, his administration has ignored laws like the Mineral Leasing Act and implemented a near-total ban on mandated quarterly lease sales of public lands. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden has leased the fewest acres of any president going as far back as President John F. Kennedy.

If not reversed, over time, the production of oil and natural gas from federal lands will dry up, and so will the revenues for these conservation programs. Wind and solar energy are not able to fill the gap. National monuments, parks, and other public lands will ultimately suffer and deteriorate from lack of upkeep.

Compounding the problem, the maintenance backlog for public lands under President Biden has ballooned from between $12 billion to $13 billion when he took office to $21.8 billion today, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The root of the problem lies in growing inefficiencies at federal agencies. Costs to administer conservation programs and complete projects are growing excessively. Money that should be spent on protecting our treasured spaces like Camp Hale is being squandered in Washington, D.C. on paperwork and bureaucracy.

Between threats to conservation funding and bureaucratic mismanagement, Biden’s conservation policies have created a double whammy for public lands.

While most stories this week will declare some version of “Hale to the Chief,” there’s little to hail when it comes to President Biden’s conservation policies.

Aaron Johnson is vice president of public affairs at Western Energy Alliance.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.


Source link