Remember the Koch brothers? They’re industrialists and businesspeople who own the second largest privately owned company in the United States (with 2013 revenues of $115 billion); their main business is in manufacturing, refining, and distribution of petroleum. There’s nothing wrong per se with working with fossil fuels, but the Koch brothers are on an entirely whole new level: they bribe scientists to speak against global warming, they’re lobbying to rewrite science textbooks and leave global warming out and they’re trying to make climate scientists look like terrorists – among many others. To sum it up, they invest a lot of money and they do a lot of lobby to make it seem like the oil business is doing nothing wrong. Now, it seems like they want to take National Parks off the table.
In a recent op-ed published in Tuesday’s New York Times, Reed Watson, the executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), called for no more National Parks.
“True conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have, not insatiably acquiring more and hoping it manages itself,” the op-ed reads. “Let’s maintain what we’ve already got, so we can protect it properly,” it concludes.
There’s something ironic in how the authors speak about “true conservation”, when they have pushed time and time again for the privatization of America’s national parks and other public lands – an idea heavily criticized by scientists. When you also consider that oil drillers have a personal interest in declaring no more National Parks, things start to become a bit more clear – more parks means less area where you can drill. Furthermore, PERC has received significant contributions from Koch-backed organizations, including from Donors Trust, which has been called the “dark-money ATM of the right.” Watson also criticized the protection of wilderness, arguing that “land management agencies [should] turn a profit” by removing restrictions on timber and energy development. All in all, he’s hardly the guy that should talk about “true conservation”.
But the op-ed moves even farther, asking to stop one of the few park programs which have actually been successful on a large scale: the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is a Federal program that was established by Act of Congress in 1965 using funds from offshore oil and gas development fees to support the acquisition of land and water, and easements on land and water across the country. Members of Congress from both parties have called for full funding of the LWCF before it expires, precisely because it worked so good. But PERC doesn’t agree, and their oil and gas allies in Congress continue to back them up.
They do make one valid point: National Parks are understaffed and underfinanced, but the solution is obviously to fund them more, not to eliminate them or stop creating new parks. Hopefully, it won’t be this kind of lobby that decides environmental legislation in the US.