Want to Put 'America First'? Protect Our Public Lands for the Millions of Americans Who Rely on Them

| SEP 12, 2017 | 2:32 PM

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Last month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke concluded his review of all national monument designations on over 100,00 acres made since 1992 pursuant to what is known as the Antiquities Act.

Zinke’s review was the result of an executive order issued by President Trump this spring. By and large, Zinke’s recommendations reflect President Trump’s America First approach to public lands.

The problem is that not everyone in Washington — or even in the Trump administration — shares the president’s desire to protect our public lands for the hunters, anglers, and working class Americans who rely on them.

Many establishment Republicans and inside the beltway think tank elites are pushing to dismantle our federal public lands and national park system. For those who don't have a real connection to the majesty of America's public lands, it must seem easy to treat our lands like any other asset — something that can be auctioned off to China or sold to a Wall Street billionaire.

The elites are wrong.

For those who can afford European vacations and private hunting reserves, our national monuments and parks are a quaint relic of the past. For tens of millions of hard-working Americans, however, our public lands provide an affordable and accessible way to vacation, to hunt, to fish, and to connect with nature.

Our public lands are more than just another asset of the federal government. They are America, they are the essence of what makes us Americans, and they should be protected and defended.

During his campaign for president, then-candidate Trump made it clear that his administration would be a friend to outdoorsmen all across our great country: “We are going to be about making sure that Americans can get out and enjoy hunting and streams. These are all our woods and waters. It belongs to all of us and we all have to be able to access it.”

In the coming battles over the future of our public lands, President Trump should listen to those around him who both understand the importance of our heritage and who share the President’s America First agenda. People like his son Donald Trump, Jr.

Like his father, Don Jr. isn't shy about saying what he believes — regardless of what establishment Republicans or Washington insiders may think. When it comes to the issue of public lands, Don Jr. has been absolutely clear about where President Trump will be on these issues. In an interview given just after his father's election, when asked about public lands, Donald Jr. said, without reservation, “We have to keep public lands public.”

Don Jr. is an avid hunter and fisherman, and he sits on the board of America's first wildlife conservation organization — founded by former President Theodore Roosevelt. Don Jr.'s affinity for the outdoor lifestyle is something he learned from his maternal grandfather. During summer visits as a child with his grandfather in Czechoslovakia, Don Jr. learned to love the outdoors — something that he has carried with him throughout his life.

“I understand these issues,” said Don Jr. “It’s something I’m passionate about. I will be the very loud voice about these issues in my father’s ear. No one gets it more than us.”

Like Don Jr., I learned my respect and love for the outdoors from my grandfather. For 30 years, my grandfather — Wallace Barron — was a game warden in northern Maine. He fished, he trapped, he hunted and he respected the land — values he instilled in me from a very young age.

I was a proud supporter of Donald Trump's campaign for president, and I am incredibly proud of the tireless work he has done on behalf of the American people since he was elected.

I also recognize the challenges that President Trump faces in implementing his America First agenda. On issues like trade, foreign policy, law and order, immigration and public lands, President Trump will continue to be challenged by special interests and the Republican establishment.

These same special interests and establishment GOPers actively worked against President Trump’s election. He owes them nothing.

Instead of bowing to the will of those who oppose his vision and worked against his election, President Trump should continue to listen to the voices of outdoorsmen like Don Jr. and protect public lands for the tens of millions of working class Americans who rely on them.

Christopher R Barron is the President of Right Turn Strategies and the former organizer of LGBT for Trump.

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