Elizabeth Warren proposes broad plan to protect public lands

“America’s public lands are one of our greatest treasures.”

–Gabriela Bhaskar / The New York Times

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts unveiled a public lands proposal on Monday, thrusting land-use issues and the environment into the spotlight as she continues to set the pace on policy in a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates.

Warren’s plan, which she outlined in a post on Medium before trips to Colorado and Utah this week, promises an executive order that would prohibit new leases for fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands, calls for the creation of “a 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps” staffed by 10,000 young people and seeks to reduce inaccessible public acreage by 50 percent.

It also aims to undo some of the environmental actions undertaken by the Trump administration, which she said amounted to “selling off our public lands to the oil, gas and coal industries for pennies on the dollar,” accelerating a “climate crisis” in the process. Under the plan, Warren said she would reinstate Obama-era air and water protections and wield the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law, to restore national monuments that President Donald Trump shrank.

Advertisement

“America’s public lands are one of our greatest treasures,” she wrote in the Medium post. “But today, those lands are under threat.”

“We must not allow corporations to pillage our public lands and leave taxpayers to clean up the mess,” she said. “All of us — local communities and tribes, hunters and anglers, ranchers and weekend backpackers — must work together to manage and protect our shared heritage.”

The land-use plan is `the latest in a series of proposals from Warren, who has tried to stand out in a wide-open Democratic field by matching her rhetoric of structural change with detailed policy platforms.

Last week, before a trip to New Hampshire, Warren announced a new corporate tax plan targeting America’s wealthiest corporations. During a previous trip through the South, Warren highlighted her plan to restore affordable housing, particularly in communities previously burdened by government discrimination.

She has also outlined plans that would provide universal child care, impose a new annual tax on the country’s wealthiest families and break up the biggest tech companies. She has advocated getting rid of the Electoral College, removing Confederate statues and creating a national commission to study reparations for black Americans.

A former Harvard law professor, Warren has not shied away from getting into the weeds of the policies she proposes and has offered robust levels of detail about her ideas compared with many of her competitors.

Advertisement

In her 1,600-word post about public lands, she set a goal of generating 10% of the county’s electricity from renewable sources offshore or on public lands and argued for financial investment in environmental preservation. Specifically, she called for full funding of public land management agencies in order to eliminate their maintenance and infrastructure backlog, and for mandatory spending of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was created by Congress in the 1960s to safeguard natural areas.

Sharon Buccino, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, a political advocacy arm of the nonprofit organization, called Warren’s plan a “responsible and visionary” way “to manage and protect our priceless lands and waters from exploitation and destruction.”

In other words, she said, it was “just what America needs.”

Warren said she would increase the AmeriCorps budget to pay for her civilian conservation corps. And she said it was “long past time” to make entry into national parks free.

“America’s public lands belong to all of us,” she wrote. “We should start acting like it.”

Close

Get the latest breaking news sent directly to your phone. Download our free app.