Lost amid the hoopla since Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton is what Trump’s election to the presidency might mean for conservation, fish and wildlife.
Trump’s strong support for the Second Amendment has been widely publicized and doubtless earned him the vote of many gun owners on Tuesday.
Also well known are Trump’s opinions on climate change, which generally place him on the opposite side of scientific evidence that says the Earth’s climate is changing and that people are in part responsible. “Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change,” Trump has said.
Less apparent is what Trump’s ascendency to the White House might mean for the Interior Department and also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates within Interior.
How this massive and broadly powerful bureaucracy shapes up under Trump is critically important, as representatives from at least three forces will vie for control: the extractive industries such as coal, gas and oil; politicians who want to sell federal lands, starve them of management funds and/or revert them to state control for eventual sale to individuals or industry; and — the wild card here — the strongly held conservation views of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr.
The younger Trump has said he intends to influence the administration of Interior in his father’s administration. Along with Eric, his younger brother, Donald Trump Jr. is a knowledgeable and experienced outdoorsman and strong conservation advocate. It will be fascinating, therefore, to see how the interests of the two sons play out, because their father has indicated that the drilling and mining industries will have freer rein in his administration — perhaps to the detriment of fish, wildlife and conservation.
How strongly and sincerely held are Donald Trump Jr.’s views on hunting, fishing and the outdoors? Judge for yourself by reading the following excerpts from an interview he gave earlier this year to Petersen’s Hunting magazine. (The entire interview can be found at http://tinyurl.com/h23sww9.)
On how Donald Trump Jr. began hunting and fishing.
“Hunting, fishing, and the outdoors was something that I got into at a very young age. My grandfather got me into the woods and wanted me to see a different side to the life I was living, being a city kid from New York. He saw all the advantages of coming from a successful, wealthy family but also saw the pitfalls and wanted to make sure I was able to experience the other side of life. He was a blue-collar electrician, from what was then Communist Czechoslovakia, and from the age of 5, he would take me with him for six to eight weeks every summer, and it was a simple, ‘There’s the woods. Go play until it’s dark.’ ”
On being led by guides in the outdoors or doing-it-yourself.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a great diversity of hunting experiences. I have learned from all of them. As great as some of the adventures have been, though, I still really love the do-it-yourself stuff in the USA. I don’t just hunt with great guides and outfitters. I mostly do a lot of stuff alone or with buddies, and the preseason setting up of blinds and stands is as much fun to me as hunting them later in the fall.”
On his outdoors bona fides.
“I’m actually probably the first graduate of the Wharton School of Finance to take a year off, right after college, to move out to Colorado, where I worked at a bar, and hunted and fished for the year, just to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into in my day job here at the Trump Organization. ... I’ve spent probably half a year of my life and then some, just living in the back of my truck. If I wasn’t able to camp out or get into the bush, I was sleeping in my truck, fishing all over that part of the world. I love the Rocky Mountains. I love all of those areas, and I know them intimately. ... So you can be assured that if I’m not directly involved [in the administration] I’m going to be that very, very loud voice in [my father’s] ear. Between my brother and myself no one understands the issues better than us. No one in politics lives the lifestyle more than us. And we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that any kind of Trump presidency is going to be the best since Theodore Roosevelt for outdoorsmen, for hunters, for our public lands, and for this country as it relates to anything in the great outdoors.”
On selling public lands.
“Clear back to Teddy Roosevelt, our federal lands were the American public’s greatest treasure. They are where our people love to hunt fish, hike, camp, snowmobile, and recreate. Some advocates of selling don’t understand the millions and millions of recreation days and billions of dollars in tourism, hunting, fishing, and the outdoors generally bring in to the coffers. There is a lot of value in these lands to be kept public, and we need to care for them properly.”
On his role in a Trump administration.
“As it relates to hunting and fishing rights and outdoor rights, I’m going to insert myself in it. The biggest family joke that we all had over the holidays was that the only job in government that I would actually want would be in the Department of the Interior. Because I can make a difference, and I could do something to preserve the great traditions of the outdoors that are so vital to this country, and would be so vital to our youth, that have been shunned by the media and stigmatized in so many ways.”
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There you have it. In coming weeks and months, we’ll see how leadership at Interior develops and what factions will influence the agency the most over the next four and possibly eight years. Stay tuned.