If You’re Looking for Pollution Pics, I Know a Guy
On the day that the Trump administration announced plans to consider measures that would revoke the protection of public lands, a post by The Wilderness Society took notice that in the last few days the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees 258 million acres of public lands, has dramatically altered their popular Flickr page. At odds with its past practice of posting images capturing the majesty of our nation’s natural heritage, the BLM has recently uploaded only photos highlighting strip mining, coal extraction, and oil and gas drilling activities. Previously known as one of the best repositories for nature photography found anywhere on the web, this departure draws a sharp contrast.
The change in tone is so dramatic it leads to one speculate on what exactly is going on at BLM. Did the BLM hire an editor from the Onion to run its Flickr page? Or maybe this is a new form of “truth in advertising” by the BLM, given that the Flickr site often ignored the darker side of how public lands have been historically mismanaged. After all, decades of emphasis by the BLM on promoting mining, livestock grazing, and fossil fuel drilling have done irreparable harm to many of the wild lands that the BLM should have been protecting instead.
But the more logical explanation is that the Trump administration is reflecting a myopic and singular vision for public lands—a vision that elevates the promotion of fossil fuels at the expense of conservation or the development of clean energy sources. In fact, if one scrolls through the new images, the revamped site exhibits a tone deafness that cannot be easily excused or explained away. For instance, one of the posted photos seemingly celebrates an abandoned oil well. The BLM is literally touting an abandoned well site where drilling equipment has been left to rot and pollute on public lands. And nowhere in the accompanying caption does the BLM acknowledge any problem with leaving equipment to rust and leak. With tens of thousands of abandoned wells on BLM-managed lands, whose cleanup will be covered by U.S. taxpayers, the irony is too much.
It would be one thing if the administration was posting a diverse range of images, but the site has become dedicated advertising for fossil fuel development. The BLM highlights the fact that it manages lands for multiple uses, but we may have to remind this administration what “multiple” means.