Early in the Trump presidency, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah introduced a bill to sell off more than 3 million acres of Western public land. The outcry from conservation groups, sportsmen and women, and the outdoor industry was enormous. Chaffetz hurriedly withdrew his legislation — and a stealth campaign began.
“The Trump administration was smart,” says Charles Wilkinson, an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado Law School and an expert in public land law. “They went underground and did not have broad policies, but just took all kinds of actions opening up public lands to exploitation. The most dramatic was oil and gas leasing. By and large it was parcel by parcel, and program by program. And they got away with a lot.”