Making America Great

By Chris Wood

President Trump came into office with the promise to “make America great again.” A steady diet of less natural resource protection has followed. Less protection for small streams under the Clean Water Act. Less protection for national monuments. Less protection for amazing landscapes such as Bristol Bay, Alaska. Less funding for restoration and science.

Less care for the lands and waters that sustain us will not make us great.

President Trump can make America great by defining an affirmative and forward-looking conservation agenda because when it comes to conservation, less is not more.

What makes America great is the fact that all Americans, as a birthright, enjoy the benefits of a vast network of publicly-owned lands; some protected, some responsibly developed.

What makes America great is that those public lands allow more than 45 million hunters and anglers to enjoy the outdoors, and fill our freezers with wild game—without having to beg, pay or trespass. As a result, last year we contributed more than $125 billion to the economy.

What makes America great is the fact that in the 1970s we realized industrial development was compromising the quality of our land and water and our elected leaders passed laws to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

What makes America great is that when we realized the production of stuff was diminishing the productive capacity of our land, air, and water, we took corrective action. We began to restore the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. The Cuyahoga River burned in 1969, but today the river has over 65 species of fish (including steelhead) thanks to restoration efforts.

To be certain, there are appropriate places to develop our vast array of minerals, timber and fuel. But we should do that in an orderly, logical and selective manner as befits the greatest nation in the world. The greatest nation in the world, for example, should not allow a foreign mining company to develop a large open-pit gold, copper and silver mine in the headwaters of the finest wild salmon fishery on the planet. Unfortunately, the EPA stopped an effort to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay and is allowing the proposed Pebble Mine to proceed to permitting.

The greatest nation in the world should invest in restoration to clean up abandoned mines; rid rivers of obsolete dams and culverts that don’t pass fish; and thin forests near communities where fire threatens lives and property. This type of watershed restoration would provide tens of thousands of high-paying family wage jobs.

The greatest nation in the world should ensure the protection of small seasonal streams that provide drinking water for a third of all Americans, and that comprise 60 percent of all the stream miles in the United States. Instead, the EPA is proposing to remove those protections and only apply the Clean Water Act to large, so-called navigable rivers.

The greatest nation in the world should put more faith in those of us whose livelihoods and way of life depend on healthy public lands. With a few exceptions, the overwhelming sentiment of communities adjacent to national monuments is to keep them protected and intact.

To make America great again, the president doesn’t need to make monuments smaller; or feed Americans a diet of less. He should protect more land. He should protect the small seasonal streams that grow big fish and supply clean water. He should realize we are not a desperate nation, and can say “Hell No!” to a foreign mining company, and not ruin the best salmon streams left on earth. He should invest in rural communities through restoration that recovers our natural infrastructure.

President Trump, the key to making America great again is to protect the best, and help us to restore the rest.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C., and works from TU's Arlington, Va., headquarters.


said on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

I believe that Mr. Trump's actual slogan is "Make Me Rich Again". Does anyone realize that with transfer and sale of the public lands will eventually result in greater  natural disasters? If the lands are barren of trees and grasses tnere will be greater soil erosion. There will be more flooding because there is nothing preventing the rains and snow melt from just running freely towatrds the rivers, creeks, lakes and resevoirs. It seems as if this congress wants to get away with as mjchnas they can, as fast as they can. They seem to be oblivious that there will be ramifiations for their actions.


said on Friday, December 15th, 2017

Thanks Chris. I'll keep paying my membership dues, if you promise to keep fighting...harder. I do what I can, but it seems like with this administration, there is no shame. It simply doesn't matter to them what anyone who disagrees with them says. If I could think of the names of all of the most negative human traits, this administration would be defined by them all....selfishness, hypocrisy, ignorance, arrogance, merciless. I don't have the time or patience to be diplomatic toward them. I want them away from this country's precious resources.

said on Sunday, December 17th, 2017

I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head Chris, in that since this administration has taken office, they have done nothing but erode all of American citizen’s protections including protection of the environment and all the services it provides like clean water, air, and climate.  It all comes down to making businesses greater than they already are so that American business can rule the country while enjoying the increased freedom to destroy natural resources owned by all Americans.   

As for Pebble mine, I keep wondering why the State of Alaska is never brought into the discussion as they will be the final agency issuing the permit, as Pebble mine will be located on state of Alaska owned lands.  

The current administration is also eroding protections for the Native Americans whose lands and fisheries surround the proposed mine.  54% of all Alaskans are opposed to the proposed project, as are 81% of Bristol Bay Native Corporation Shareholders (i.e. Native Americans).  

Finally, the antiquated 1872 mining law comes into play here as well, in that if mining companies had to fully insure against any environmental damage the mine might cause, they could not afford to cost effectively mine it in the first place.  Currently the U.S. taxpayer is footing the bill for “cleaning up” thousands of abandoned mine sites throughout the U.S. including 2 mines in Alaska (polluted with heavy metals like mercury) using E.P.A   “Superfund” monies provided by U.S.Taxpayers.  

I am encouraged and heartened by all TU has been able to accomplish throughout the country in regards to natural resource restoration.  The recent reporting of how the S. Platte river flowing through downtown Denver, Colorado has been converted basically from an open sewer to a first class trout fishery is an especially touching example.

Great op-ed piece Chris, thanks for all you do.


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