9B regulations manage the “split estate” of our landscape of public lands — the federal government owns the surface land, but corporations own the mineral rights below ground. Many of these regulations predate the National Parks, and there are many parks where corporations own these subsurface rights.

The Trump administration is repealing safeguards put into place to protect the parks from drilling and mining, which will make it easier to open our National Parks for drilling in the future.

The Trump administration is also streamlining the leasing process on public lands so that federal leases to the oil and gas industry can be expedited “to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held.”

From the Washington Post: “The new approach requires the Bureau of Land Management to process a proposed lease within six months. Once-mandatory public participation in safety reviews is now left to the discretion of the agency’s field representatives. Public protests of finalized leases will be shortened to 10 days, and a sale can move forward even if disputes are unresolved, according to the memo.”

Our public lands are NOT protected. We like to think they are, but in reality, our government is just a tool for corporations to use to access our most cherished places for drilling and mining. Now that the EPA has been effectively destroyed, and the Department of the Interior is managed by someone who loves the extraction industries, this situation is worse than ever. We are seeing just how much power corporations have when it comes to accessing our public lands for mining and drilling.

I don’t know what we can do to stop this. For me, this is the most depressing aspect of our modern world. I’ve learned that there are many people out there who are incapable of seeing the beauty of unspoiled wilderness; they look at the “empty spaces” and see only opportunities for making money. A friend recently told me a story of someone on a bus entering Denali park in Alaska. He went in asking “Why are we wasting all this space when we could be using it for money making?” Fortunately, the tour took him through such amazing beauty, he came out a changed man, realizing that unspoiled wilderness is worth saving just for the beauty. Unfortunately, we have people in power (Secretary Zinke as just one example) who have seen these places and remain unmoved.

The illustration for this post is a cartoon by Steve Sack, an American cartoonist who won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.