News releases popped up on my news feed today like dandelions after a summer rain. Organizations like the Outdoor Industry Association, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Montana Wildlife Federation were all slamming and/or questioning the Trump Administration.
The battle lines are already being drawn because Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted his report to the White House regarding recommendations for national monuments. Nobody really knows what those recommendations are just yet – but these folks already know that those recommendations are wrong and they’re setting up for a frontal assault!
You can look up any of these organizations for their individual press releases. I’ll just link to one here so you can get a sampling of what I read over my morning coffee.
I’ll be doing a detailed analysis of this topic as the recommendations become available for public review. What I will do this morning is mention a couple things that I believe we should all keep in mind as the propaganda machines start ramping up the rhetoric.
I really question the numbers regarding “public support.” Here is an excerpt from the news release from TRCP:
Of the more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period, more than 99 percent were in favor of keeping national monuments intact.
That statement is not necessarily to be taken at face value or as fact. I took a quick look at the report that was used as the basis for that 99 percent number. The report is entitled “Public Support for Public Lands: Analysis of Comments Regarding Review and Potential Loss of Protection for America’s National Monuments.”
I examined the methodology used in this analysis. There were approximately 1.3 million comments received. Of those, 742,692 were analyzed. Of those, 32,000 were “randomly selected” to form “a pool from which the volunteer reviewers would draw.” In the end, the number of comments where reviews were completed totaled 1,705.
This small number really draws a question mark in my mind. Then I further learned that the reviews that were completed provided “a means of training and testing the machine learning algorithm before using it to gauge the sentiment expressed.”
They do not have my confidence built up about the numbers they cite.
Additionally, I reviewed a few summaries within that report and they contributed to my skepticism. For instance, in some of the states that actually have some of the national monuments in question, the percentage who are opposed to the Executive Order were as follows:
Maine at 75.2%, Nevada at 72.4%, and Oregon at 76.2%. These numbers are a far cry from the 99% touted, even using the questionable methodology described.
Bottom line – we need to look at specifics as the recommendations surface and we need to remember that the federal government does not have an exemplary track record in regard to managing our public lands.
That’s the view from here.