Right Thing for the Wrong Reason
It was reported on June 9, 2020, that Congress may pass a federal lands bill which will fund the chronically shortchanged Land & Water Conservation Fund. The Fund, among other things, pays for maintenance of our national parks, which are in dire need of maintenance and improvements. According to the New York Times, the fund for the national parks was created in 1965, but “has been fully funded only twice in its history and last year received about half of its limit, though that amount was still the highest in 15 years.”
Republicans and particularly Trump had heretofore opposed the bill (now called the Great American Outdoors Act). What changed?
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Senator Steve Daines of Montana, both Republicans, are in hotly contested races for re-election. Both of these Senators want to “bring home the bacon” to their constituents by taking credit for passage of the bill. Both Senators serve states with many of our most famous national parks and depend on park tourism for a big portion of state revenue. Since Republicans have a 51-49 razor thin edge in the Senate, it didn’t take much to convince Republic Senate Majority Leader Mitch Connell and enough other Senate Republicans to ditch their opposition to the bill in favor of saving two (2) seats and preserving their majority.
As for convincing Trump, that wasn’t so hard either. According to the story, Senator Gardner understood that Trump is vulnerable to flattery and appeals to his desire to create a legacy. Gardner and a few other Senate Republicans met with Trump in the Theodore Roosevelt Room of the White House. Gardner showed Trump pictures of land along the rim of the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park which was purchased through the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Trump agreed it was beautiful, but the clincher was that Gardner told Trump passage of the public lands bill would be the biggest conservation accomplishment since Theodore Roosevelt created the national park system. Needless to say to anyone who is familiar with Roosevelt’s conservation achievements or the history of the national park system, this was a huge lie, but Gardner knew his man better than the man knows himself. Trump agreed on the spot to sign the bill.
For once, I’m glad that Trump is not a reader, is ignorant of history and is overly eager to believe he is a great man.
Lest we forget who and what Trump really is, Trump recently legalized by executive order hunting methods on over 20 million acres of federal land in Alaska’s wilderness that had been banned by President Obama. These methods, which even sportsmen consider wrong, include baiting grizzly bears with irresistible sweets, shooting hibernating bears and their cubs in dens, and shooting caribou while they swim helplessly across rivers, bays and lakes.
Trump was baited like a bear with a sweet tooth into supporting funding for the national parks by a canny Senator who appealed to Trump’s ego. Clearly Trump knows nothing about Roosevelt and has not read what Roosevelt himself wrote about hunting. Roosevelt was an ardent hunter his whole life, but he believed strongly in “fair chase” and the conservation and restoration of all wildlife.
It is impossible to imagine that Roosevelt would approve of Trump in general or of these new hunting rules.