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Siskiyou Mountain Range

The Blog

Smokey the Bear Says: Resist!

Image: Alt US National Park Service

President Trump is now in the White House signing Executive Orders and taking unilateral actions to destroy the social fabric of our communities and the integrity of our environment. In my lifetime I have never seen a threat that is so widespread and comprehensive. As a community and as a nation we must stand up for freedom, respect and environmental responsibility. 

On January 21, 2017, millions of people around the world joined the Women’s March in opposition to the Trump Administration and the Trump agenda. An estimated 8,000-10,000 people from southern Oregon and northern California showed up in sleepy, little Ashland, Oregon to protest Trump, his cabinet, and his agenda. It was the largest gathering of people of any kind in Ashland — ever! Across the continent and across the world people have begun to stand up and speak out against the corporate takeover of our country by Trump and his billionaire cronies. 

Trump has responded to the protests by signing Executive Orders and Memorandums that threaten the rights of women, immigrants and other disenfranchised people, and encourages the development of the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and even the local Jordan Cove LNG pipeline here in southern Oregon. All these pipelines have been strongly opposed by local communities, affected landowners, tribal governments, and large numbers of the American population. Trump has also declared an open administrative war on climate science, removing information on climate change from government websites and has now imposed a “gag order” on the EPA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Interior so they cannot publicly comment on the disastrous effects of Trump’s new climate and energy policy. Although Trump avoids the media, stating that he would rather communicate directly with the people through Twitter and other forms of social media, other government agencies have been barred from such open lines of communication. 

Image: Alt US National Park Service

In response, the folks within the National Parks Service have gone rogue and are posting on Facebook and other sites in opposition to the Trump gag order. Our local government employees, who are entrusted with managing our public lands should do the same. Numerous websites, Facebook pages and twitter accounts have been posted on the web providing opportunities for National Park Service employees to speak out on their own personal time. Thus far, the coalition represents Arches, Shenandoah, Yosemite, Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smokey National Parks. It is time for Crater Lake, Lava Beds and the Oregon Caves to get involved! Check out the Alternative US National Park Service Facebook page, website and twitter feed, support their resistance and encourage other government employees to stand up. As I write this post, government agencies, including the Forest Service, National Weather Service, EPA and others are joining in, forming unofficial twitter accounts to defy the Trump gag order.

Trump is essentially severing the ties between our government agencies and the public, harvesting mistrust and impacting our ability to create meaningful relationships, transparent planning processes and collaboration. Many wonder how this inability to openly communicate will impact local collaborative processes like the Applegate AMA, the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership, management of the newly expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,  and other federal land management projects heavily supported by local communities. These popular land management projects depend on open, transparent lines of communication, trust and respect between collaborative partners. It appears Trump is working hard to undermine these efforts, while quietly sacrificing our public lands to industrial interests. 

To make matters worse, Trump has instituted a hiring freeze on government employees. Trump’s order, initiated on January 23, states, “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled
and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.” Exceptions may be granted for reasons of “national security” and “public safety,” although no one currently knows how these exemptions are being defined. The idea is to trim the federal workforce through attrition, despite that fact that since 1994 the Forest Service workforce has declined by 45%. Current staffing levels leave many important issues unaddressed and under Trump it will only get worse. Locally, it means positions such a botanists, wildlife biologists, recreation planners, and firefighting personnel cannot be hired by the Forest Service. 

Image: Alt US National Park Service

Together the gag order and hiring freeze further erodes the delicate trust developed between government agencies
and local communities. Many wonder if agencies like our local Forest
Service can continue collaborating with local communities and provide
acceptable levels of transparency. Others are concerned that the local BLM, already puppets of the industry, will be encouraged to log off our natural legacy and ignore the concerns of our communities. The future is uncertain and as long as federal agencies and the public cannot communicate effectively, controversy, gridlock and litigation will prevail. Hiring freezes and gag orders are not solutions and will only bring more dysfunction to an already broken process and underfunded government agencies.

We are being thrust back into the era of corporate dominance, secretive government management and ineffective environmental regulations that will leave a lasting legacy of environmental destruction, impoverished local communities and devastated resource bases. In the short term, corporate and industrial interests will thrive; in the long term, we will all pay the price. Even Smokey the Bear says: “Resist.” I for one will be happy to join him!

 Southern Oregon Woman’s March — January 21, 2017