These Lands Are Our Lands

By Steve Blackledge
Conservation Program Director

Cue up Woody Guthrie's unofficial national anthem.

I've been ruminating on a quote in a New York Time's story from a few weeks ago. The topic? Offshore oil drilling. The quote? "These are our lands. They're taxpayer owned, and they should be made available."

It came from Thomas Pyle, the president of American Energy Alliance, an energy group with connections to the Koch brothers network, which is to say oil money. The group supports drilling off our coasts, and the "lands" to which he's referring are the public lands under water just offshore.

The curious thing is that I agree with much of Mr. Pyle’s statement. These are our lands. They are owned by us. And as land owners, we have a decision to make. Should we open them up to drilling and seek a little more oil, or should we protect our coasts, put them off limits, because these places are too beautiful and too vital to spoil?

We know our answer. Environment America is working to stop the Trump administration's drilling plan because our public lands are worth so much more than the short-term oil they may provide. They are vibrant habitats, with a wide array of species from plants to animals.

Thankfully, the public is on our side. The majority of people oppose more offshore drilling. What’s more, there’s bipartisan opposition to the plan.

Republicans and Democrats from our coastal states have spoken out in opposition to the offshore drilling plan. South Carolina Governor McMaster, a Republican, in a letter urging the Trump administration to take South Carolina’s coasts out of the plan, states: “it is my duty to future generations to protect our most precious assets and to make decisions consistent with South Carolina’s strong conservation ethos.”

Economic arguments are also powerful in this debate. Consider this op-ed in the New York Times by California Attorney General Becerra. He makes the case that California's coastal economy is huge and just as important as Florida's. (Note: the coastlines of Florida were taken out of the drilling plan, maybe.)

But after all is said and done, the most persuasive argument is one of conservation: From the whales, otters, sea turtles and dolphins that inhabit our oceans, to the beautiful blue water, our coasts are stunningly beautiful, ecologically-important, and should be preserved.  

These are our lands. They are owned by us. And it's our job as Americans to protect these special places, from California to the New York Island.