Welcoming the ‘Merchant of Doubt’ to the Conservation Debate

Oct 21, 2015

By Center for Western Priorities

Oh, hey Rick Berman! So glad to see you’ve taken a keen interest in our national parks. Yes, those national parks, like the Grand Canyon, Arches, Glacier, and Yellowstone. Not to mention dozens and dozens of others.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not writing about national parks and monuments because of a deeply held interest in American lands and our national heritage. With you, it’s always about enriching yourself, and your anti-land conservation campaign is your latest chance to cash in.

We’ve always known your tactics are underhanded. You laid them out in black and white last year in front of a gathering of oil industry executives while trying to solicit their money:

Think of this as an endless war, and you have to budget for it‚Ķ We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.

You told that gathering that they can either “win ugly or lose pretty.” Your services are no doubt ugly, but I’m hesitant to put you on the winning side of history. Remember, you’ve fought and lost battles against nearly all social and economic advancements in recent decades. You’ve supported big tobacco, opposed minimum wages, tried to tarnish the Humane Society, and even fought rules against drunk driving.

And now you’re setting sights on our national parks and monuments.

While your claims of a monument “land grab” may jibe with the interests of your industry underwriters, the large majority of Westerners ‚Äì who live where most American public lands are located ‚Äì want to see our outdoor heritage protected for future generations.

That’s because we understand that protecting lands isn’t just a touchy-feely thing, but is fundamentally about bolstering local economies that directly benefit from a park, monument, or forest in their backyard. These areas don’t just provide jobs and tourist revenue, businesses say that access to protected public lands provide a competitive advantage for attracting talented employees.

If our ineffective Congress won’t act to protect our lands, then we’ll continue looking to our president, Republican or Democrat, to step in and get the job done.

Photo: Rick Berman on The Rachel Maddow Show/MSNBC