On The Trail

Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to reconnect Americans with public lands

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has unveiled an ambitious plan to reconnect Americans with the National Parks system. Shown: Yosemite National Park in California. (AngMoKio/Wikimedia)

Just in time for Earth Day, Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren has unveiled an ambitious plan that aims to reconnect the American people with the nation’s public lands.

The plan, published in a Medium post by the Massachusetts senator, takes aim at the starkly pro-industry policies supported by President Donald Trump by proposing to, among other efforts, ban new fossil fuel exploration on public lands, make admission to every National Park free, and restore the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments that President Trump shrank upon taking office in 2017.

Describing her intention to push back against the current administration’s policies, Warren said, “As president, I will use my authorities under the Antiquities Act to restore protections to both [Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears] and any other national monuments targeted by this administration,’’ adding that she would also “fully fund our public land management agencies and eliminate the infrastructure and maintenance backlog on our public lands in my first term.”

According to the National Parks Service, America’s National Parks currently suffer from an $11 billion maintenance backlog that has snarled operations across the parks system. Warren plans to address this deferred maintenance by creating a new 10,000 member Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that would be tasked with carrying out the needed repairs. The original CCC was created as a part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal following the Great Depression, and although workers were segregated by race, the program ultimately put over 3 million unemployed and unmarried young men to work improving federally-held lands during its nine-year lifespan.

In a nod to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, Warren also proposes to increase the amount of renewable energy produced on public lands with the goal of providing 10 percent of the U.S.’s overall electricity generation through this initiative.

Warren’s plan would also work to increase access to the roughly 10 million acres of public lands spread out across western states that are currently inaccessible due to convoluted ownership and access issues. The plan, Warren hopes, will boost America’s booming “outdoor economy,” which, according to the senator, “accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending each year and creates 7.6 million sustainable jobs that can’t be exported overseas.”

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