Western Voters Reject Attacks on Public Lands in Key State and Local Elections

Tuesday was a victory for public lands on many levels as voters decisively supported candidates who pledged to fight Trump and Zinke’s push to open our parks and public lands to dirty fuel development.

In addition to exciting wins for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, progressive governors elected in Colorado and New Mexico, and a slate of Democratic victories in western state U.S. House races, there were a few state and local races that stand out as major victories for the protection of public lands.

In New Mexico, Stephanie Garcia Richard became the first woman elected as State Land Commissioner. Garcia Richard is an educator in New Mexico public schools and ran on her commitment to preserve the state’s public lands for today’s children and generations to come. The win sends a message, as Chevron poured millions of dollars into this race to support her pro-drilling opponent.

Meanwhile in Utah, San Juan County voters elected Democrats Willie Greyeyes and Kenneth Maryboy to the county commission. BLM has often said they defer to San Juan County commissioners when making decisions on parcels to be opened up for gas and oil leases, and Tuesday’s results now place the commission squarely in opposition to Trump and Zinke’s land grab plans for Bears Ears National Monument. The election of Greyeyes and Maryboy also means that the county commission will be majority Native American for the first time in its history. Native Americans make up the majority of San Juan County residents, and this election is a strong step in the right direction for fair representation.

With all of the media attention on the big marquee races, it’s important to remember that many of the fights to safeguard people, places and wildlife take place at the state and local level. These newly-elected officials will lead the way in supporting healthy communities and the places we love.   

A clear take away this election is that Zinke and Trump’s attacks on our public lands galvanized voters, who sent a clear message against the administration’s attempts to sell off our public treasures to the dirty fuels industry. The 2018 election has proven that protecting public lands isn’t just the right thing to do -- it’s good politics. Candidates gearing up for the next round of state and local elections should pay close attention.