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As the new administration begins, these are the public lands issues to watch

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Want to start with the basics, or tips on how to take action? Here's an overview.


With a new Congress in session and the presidential inauguration days away, Washington, D.C., is a hive of activity. There are so many issues up for debate, it’s easy to miss the fact that our public lands are at a turning point: decisions made in the coming weeks could impact the places you and your family go to camp, hike, fish, and explore.

Our legislative experts are closely monitoring public lands policy—and you can, too. Here are four key issues to watch.

1. The land transfer rule change

Some members of Congress want to transfer federal lands to the states for drilling, logging, and mining. On its first day in session, the House of Representatives approved a rule change that could make it much easier to do just that.

Until now, lawmakers trying to transfer federal land to the states have had to offset the value of that land by making cuts or generating revenue elsewhere, a hurdle that has halted such attempts in the past. But the rule change allows for land transfers cost-free. That means Congress could be able to give state governments land that today belongs to all Americans—without reimbursement.

From outside of Washington, this development was easy to miss: it’s part of a larger rules package that sets up House procedures in areas like ethics and budget negotiations. Many voters don’t pay close attention to these nitty-gritty details—but this is one that could prove significant.

02-12-274.jpgThe Trust for Public Land has helped protect more than 100,000 acres in Montana's Seeley-Swan Valley--just one of the 41,000 places that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made a difference.Photo credit: Ted Wood

2. The Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been the budgetary lifeblood for parks and open space in the United States for more than 50 years. Established by Congress in 1965, it aims to protect the nation's most iconic landscapes—and expand access to outdoor recreation—without taxing everyday Americans.

LWCF directs a portion of the fees charged to oil companies for offshore drilling toward safeguarding open space for the public. To date, it has funded more than 41,000 state and local park projects, from historic sites and cultural landmarks to backcountry escapes.

Despite this successful track record—and strong bipartisan support—LWCF is in jeopardy: it’s set to expire in 2018. (Last year, a provision to permanently reauthorize the LWCF was included in a larger energy bill that never made it to the president’s desk.

The Trust for Public Land continues to work to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF. Representatives Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, and Patrick Meehan, a Republican from Pennsylvania, launched this bipartisan effort last Thursday with the introduction of H.R. 502, the Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill

3. The Secretary of the Interior

Congress will soon decide whether to confirm Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as the next Secretary of Interior. If confirmed, Zinke will oversee the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service—which together manage more than 400 million acres of public land.

As a U.S. representative, Zinke strongly supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and public lands in his home state. During his confirmation hearing on January 17, Zinke affirmed that public lands should stay in public hands, and reiterated his support for the LWCF. We’re encouraged by Zinke’s record, and if he is confirmed, we will expect him to follow through on these statements. 

View of the Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon is just one of the landscapes first protected by a president's use of the Antiquities Act.Photo credit: National Park Service

4. The Antiquities Act

Like almost every president since Theodore Roosevelt, President Obama used a law called the Antiquities Act to protect threatened lands and waters—most recently at places like the Cotoni-Coast Dairies in California and Bears Ears in Utah. Obama also created national monuments that tell the American story, from sites honoring important figures—like Cesar Chavez, Harriet Tubman, and Colonel Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers—to Stonewall Inn in New York City, the Pullman Historic District in Chicago, and the new Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

Some members of Congress want to curtail the Antiquities Act, and they’re introducing legislation that could make it harder to create national monuments. But the act is an important tool for conservation. It’s been instrumental in protecting some of nation’s most beloved landscapes: just imagine the Grand Canyon as a uranium mine, or Olympic National Park as a patchwork of clear-cuts instead of river valleys of old-growth rainforest. (Both were initially protected under the Antiquities Act.)

It’s too early to say how these issues will be resolved—or what new challenges may be in store. But one thing is certain: now more than ever, our public lands need well-informed and committed advocates—people like you. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for updates from Washington, and join us in standing up for the places that matter


julie quanstrom
our federal lands are for everyone, not for individual corporations and need to be funded to preserve.
Inge ness
You are absolutely right, this land is for the people not corporations and we must protect this
Barbara Sickles
We must all stand up for preservation!
Martha Butow
Thank you for such a great summary of the important public land issues we all face for the next four years!
The people of this country - THE MAJORITY - want our special places to remain just you hear us????? Congress/Senate - Republicans --- we will fight you tooth and nail and do our best to remove you ALL from the power you have continually abused as long as you have held your is time for you to begin to actually represent the majority and not just the wealthy ---- greed and avarice will bite you back in dark ways.
John Brennan
I'm with ye today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life. That's supposed to be 4/1/2040; time uncertain. JB
David LeRoy
Neither Congress nor the BLM or USF&W or any regulatory agency can be trusted to protect our public land, our wildlife, our air, earth and water, our civil rights, etc., because they cater to special interests whose interests or attitudes do not reflect what the majority of our citizens want. They must be watched carefully and forced to do their jobs for the benefit of all of us, not just their supporters or for the bribes they may receive.
Joan Thomas
Thank you. We must fight this administration.
elaine roddy
Thanks for the education. Keep up the good work; I'll contribute when I can.
Shari Kearney
Federal lands are the birthright of all Americans, not just the powerful and well placed. We need these lands to remain under federal management and ownership as they are for all generations to come.
Connie Call
I will be supportive in whatever ways I can.
Roy Tansill
Keep the greedy profit grubbing corporations off of our public lands- those lands and their mineral resources belong to all of us not just the few who wish to fatten their bank accounts by destroying the land.
David Allan Cole Sr.
Keep up the GOOD WORK!!
Norma McCulloch
We MUST PROTECT these beautiful places forever.....Big business would love to do otherwise...but we must be diligent in keeping them beautiful and protected.
Norma McCulloch
We must protect these places or they will be destroyed for some rich mans profit.....Pls keep me informed!
We must fight to keep the promises made by the Obama Legacies. In President Obama's honor and in gratitude for all he has done to protect this country, we must not let these promises be ignored and our country be destroyed.
Donna Verdugo
I'm concerned about keeping strong protections for public lands.
j hoegler
Please preserve and ensure the strength of the land and water conservation fund, and the antiquities act. Please do not promote or support the public land transfer fund. States in financial distress will sell off public lands to raise short-tem cash, the equivalent of a US farmer "selling his seed corn." Think ahead 7 generations and preserve our natural areas as effectively as Native Americans did in their thousands of years on this continent.
Eva Winogrodska
Public Lands are just that - they belong to us the residents of the U.S. To despoil them with fracking, oil extraction, mining or other for profit activities will deprive future generations. We must stop this land grab by the states who will ruin for short term profit what took thousands of years to create.
Trump & CO. want to run the world and own all the resources in it. G-d seems to applaud these bums. Religion seems to back it all up. What a species!!
Really appreciate tpl. Thank you for the update! Grateful for the straight forward hysteria-free information, and not taking advantage of this particular day to ask for donations.
Carol Ewald
Thank you for such a clear overview of the challenges and hopes we have under our new Trump administration. I look forward to more updates as the year goes on.
Cheryl Griffith
We DID NOT WATCH ! ! !we Will boycot all trumps speaches , news bites etc - he is a rambling idiot
Suzanne Michael
Mr. Rep. Zinke, If you get the job of Sec. of interior I hope you are the one person we can trust to do the job you're given without handing it over to greedy oil men or miners. Not just your home state but all of them.
KC Bowma
Abso-dang-lutely NOT!
Friedman Dagmar
I will be paying attention
Marilyn Sammons
Saving our public lands from destruction due to fracking, drilling and mining must be curtailed and I will donate as much as possible, call and write when needed!
Suzanne Gaspar
Is there anything we can do to forestall the Land Transfer Rule Change? Thanks, Suzanne PS also just read that the WH Climate Website has been taken down. Can it be put up somewhere else so it won't be lost?
Colleen M Drisc...
I have supported the Trust all my life. We cannot let the federal government steal public lands that belong to the American people for private exploitation.
sue russell
keep me posted
Jim Lynch
Thanks for the good summary...
Diane M Wachowski
This is the first president who truly worries me about actions regarding lands. Who seems determined to take it away from the federal agencies and give it to the states so he can hand out oil and coal land grants to big businesses.
Mitch Dann
Do you have a form of a letter I could use to send to my electeds on the Land Transfer Rule Change? Thanks! Mitch
doug ferguson
Thanks for this update. Please keep me posted!
Carolyn L Parker
The land is public land and therefore belongs to the American people. It is a legacy to be passed down to our children and their children and so forth. I do not believe you have a mandate at all to take these wondrous lands and just give it to the states to do as they see fit. That is wrong on so many levels. I do not want my country to become a desolate waste land.
Phyllis Miller
To Trust for Public Land: Please keep your eye on these four points mentioned in your letter; 1. the land transfer rule change. I do not want our public lands transferred to states for drilling, mining and other development. 2. I want the Land and Water Conservation Act to be permanently and fully funded for our public lands and parks. 3. Please hold the new Secretary of the Interior to the our high environmental standards. 4. Please help us keep intact the venerable Antiquities Act that has served our country so well. Thanks you.
Kitty McKim
Thank you for this information. Will look for it = love our public lands they are needed by everyone, and need protecting. Thank you
James Huffendick
We must keep our land management for the next 100 years. Our land must be protected and controlled for everyone's use. We have a good start and we have to work to keep it that way!
Barbara David
Please keep the Garden Club of America's National Affairs and Legislation Committee informed about the LWCF status. They have been fighting to keep this fund alive for many years. Thank-you Russ Shays!
Sallie Robbins-...
These lands belong to the all the people, not to the government politicians to do as they wish. And most definitely not to bevparceled out to the states. Appalling abuse of land management!
Janice Houlihan
Don't change the Antiquities Act. It's there for a reason, an important reason. Please don't curtail it. We need our national monuments now more than ever.
Brenda Rapoport
Nature must be protected, nourished and cared for by all. The government needs to stand together to make sure government lands, parks etc., are protected from industries and individuals that want to destroy/obliterate it in name of progress. Once it is destroyed, it is gone forever. The government needs to make sure natural habitats, lands, parks, etc., are kept safe from any and all destruction. Once this God-given gift of land and nature is gone it can never be replaced. Please dont allow laws that will destroy our lands, parks, etc.
Please preserve public lands and protect from purchase that will change the landscape. Protect from drilling and from development.
Angela Jensen
We want protect and preserve our public lands not give or sell them for profit to some corporation. That is not what public land means they are meant to be enjoyed. Respected and treasured for years to come . Not have them destroyed for money.
sandra may
Our land is not yours to give away!
Dr. Miles Williams
I mostly like Zinke, but I doubt he will be even a bump in the path toward the massive privatizing, and monetizing, of our national holdings as the Rs, and Trump, gain steam.
Jacqueline Hinkson
Protect our history!!!!!!
Don Makeever
Thank You for alerting me to these concerns.
James Barrington
Please keep fighting to keep public lands in public hands. Thank you!
Pat Lea
Keep up the good work. Send out action instructions on these issues.
Ruth Stewart
Thanks for your diligence and major efforts!
philomena moss
please keep our public lands public
Deb allen
Thanks fir being vigilant.
Linda Elkind
Please make these threats to public land and enforcement of clean water and clean air legislation prominent in News Reports all over the US.
Robert and Paul...
Public lands should continue to be protected for future generations rather than destroyed for short term gain by special interests !
Diana Hughes
I'm an old woman "trapped" in her home because of physical "ailments." I spend my days watching MSNBC and reviewing emails while signing online petitions for land, water, air and animal security, saving and safety for today and beyond. Yes, I also try to keep up with politics and politicians. I tell you all this because I'm SOOOO worried about our country's future and the future of our globe!!! Pres. Trump doesn't care about anything except money and I'm positive that he will only be a "front man" for the people around him and I've already seen how he signed documents "for show" after his inauguration which included 2 documents that were "real" -- one dealt with a huge change to the homeowners with FHA loans and the second dealt with another very important legislative matter. Trump had no idea he signed these 2 documents as they were handed to him as he was "showing off" for the press. I'm sure this sort of Whitehouse "staff" pulling Trump's strings will destroy our country!!! PLEASE do all you can to watch out for these actions and do your best to protect our globe!!!!
Ms. Terry Holland
Please keep our Lands and Waters Safe, we need these thing for the Future , They help put in air and things back in to our world, don't strip them, keep them Safe for the Future !!!!
Wendy Sands
Hands off National and Historical lands. Dirty petroleum will worsen global warming,
Margaaret Durner
Public lands belong to all of us. No privatization of any federal lands, BLM, Forest Service or National Parks.
Barbara long
Who can we call to ask that these lands be protected. If I have phone numbers I can get many people to call. This info needs the support of social media
Kae Parker
Thank you for specific information on these issues. I would appreciate regular updates so that I can contact my Senator and Representative when necessary.
Jillana Tappan ...
It is vital that we protect our public lands and monuments. Not only do they need to preserved for all to enjoy and treasure but they are an important part of our ecosystem that needs to remain untouched by corporate greed.
michelle crislip
please continue to fight for our public land, with the new administration I fear oil money/greed will take over
Please keep me informed by email. DO NOT send me mail.
Gary Pinkerton
Yes, I'd like to see public lands remain public!
Sandra Ellsworth
I do NOT want Public Lands turned over to the States so they can abuse the land, the air, the animals who live there, and the Public who wish to visit these Lands. Our country is by far the most beautiful and diverse land -- I want it kept that way!
Yvonne Nafin
We need to start a petition to to stop this. I'm one person that haven't even seen the Grand Canyon yet, but I along with others would like to see it someday. They shouldn't be allowed to take all the beauty we have to turn it into ugly mining, logging etc. We need to leave the trees alone, after all they help keep us alive!!! It kills me when I see tree's being cut down.
Theresa lightcap
If trump doesn't have to release his taxes,why do i
Amy Wolfberg
Our public lands and natural heritage and extremely important to me, as well as most Americans. We treasure our natural lands and do not want to see public land transferred to the states.
Cheryl Eiholzer
Mr Zinke voted for the land transfer rule change. I live in Montana and as a conservationist I find that Zinke talks from both sides of this mouth. I assume there could be worst nominees. However, I believe this idea of public land is a mine in the Grand Canyon to get more use out of public lands. To me, this is unacceptable.
Thank you for this reminder !
SOS our environment from exploitation that benefits big companies like oil, coal, gas, or any group degrading wilderness and parks for their profit. SOS Native American lands for them not big money interests. SOS endangered species from hunters, ranchers, etc. Respect nature. SOS clean water and air.
Phyllis Brown
Don't let Trump and his bunch of corrupt, greedy administrators get their greedy hands on the last vestiges of beautiful country that we all enjoy! Don't let them destroy places of national significance by making them into their private property. We all enjoy them too much to see them razed of their trees, fishing lakes and camping sites, etc. When they are gone, they can never be replaced. They need to remain free to the public to enjoy. Pres. Obama carefully protected them, but I fear Trump will no be the same.
glynis boyd
Destroying the national treasury of natural resources is a typical republican(trump) move. These living monuments are the people's, not some money grubbing carpet bagger's. Save our parks, natural reserves, and public lands. Yes, Public Lands not private use explotation money markets. Don't destroy our parks for fossil fuels, lumber, or mining.
Kathleen Isham
Our land is a trust, for now and for the future. It belongs to all, not just a few, and it is an irreplaceable. It is only right to require environmental impact studies and charge fair market value for its use or sale.


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