Donald Trump naming Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is really just bog-standard Republicanism, which of course makes the entire existence of the Green Party an absurdity bordering on tragedy. Pruitt of course is from Oklahoma, a climate denier who has overseen the vast growth of increasingly powerful earthquakes in this geologically stable part of the nation due to fracking. This is the environmental policy of the United States government between 2017 and 2021, at least, probably more given the massive voter suppression coming under Attorney General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Trump may not be done tapping the Sooner State for his administration. A leading candidate to be Secretary of the Interior is Governor Mary Fallin, an extremist on public land issues (and many other things). Among other things, the National Park Service falls under the DOI. Oklahoma has state parks. And Fallin has sought to get rid of these horrible things in the name of freedom and private profit.
Under Fallin’s leadership, Oklahoma has disposed of a third of its state park system, going from 50 parks in 2011 to just 32 today. In her first year alone, Fallin permanently closed seven state parks while placing an oil executive from Chesapeake Energy — one of her biggest campaign contributors — in charge of the state’s park system.
Fallin has years of experience selling off Oklahoma’s parks, going all the way back to 2005, when as lieutenant governor she spearheaded a plan to sell Lake Texoma State Park, one of Oklahoma’s most popular destinations, to private developers who promised to build a billion-dollar resort there.
The sale turned into a decade-long debacle that perfectly encapsulates why privatizing America’s public lands is such a terrible idea.
In 2005, Oklahoma agreed to sell 750 acres of Lake Texoma Park to Pointe Vista Development, a company owned by two oil executives: Chesapeake Energy’s Aubrey McClendon and Chaparral Energy’s Mark Fischer.
After getting the ball rolling on the giveaway, Fallin ran for Congress, and McClendon donated $4,200 to her campaign. Once in Washington, she continued her giveaway to McClendon, sponsoring legislation that paved the way for the sale of 227 of those acres to Pointe Vista. The sale went through in 2008, as McClendon kept sending money to Fallin’s campaign.
And then nothing happened.
Well, almost nothing. Pointe Vista tore down the once-popular Lake Texoma Lodge and closed the public golf course. Businesses closed up shop. Visitors stopped coming. The promised luxury resort was never built.
The Trump economy in a nutshell!
The National Parks are a particularly priority for me and while they aren’t on everyone’s radar as a political target, they very much will be. It’s not as if Yellowstone or Yosemite are going to close, but they may well be privatized or enter into public-private partnerships that include massive branding. The smaller parks, especially the historical ones, are going to be in real trouble. How do you think a Trump administration deals with a national park dedicated to Stonewall? Or slavery? Or women’s rights? It’s entirely possible some of these parks could be shuttered, although that would take a bill and Americans do like their national parks. But there’s nothing in the United States where Republicans don’t have an agenda to privatize, to close, or to profit. That includes the national parks. Mary Fallin would be a great choice for those who hate national parks.