Comments to the Bureau of Land Management — May 26, 2016 in the Tennessee Theatre.

by Grant A. Mincy

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(I submitted the following comments to the Bureau of Land Management on May 26, 2016 at the Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. BLM held a public hearing regarding the Federal Coal Leasing Program that allows strip mining on public lands. The following is my three minute pitch — the time limit for public comments, though elected officials were granted unlimited time for their pro-industry pitch — for preservation of, and reconciliation with, the wild.)

Hello, and welcome to the Tennessee Theatre! I hope you enjoy your stay here in the Scruffy City.

My name is Grant Mincy. I am an instructor of biology and (sometimes) geology at the local Pellissippi State Community College — though my presence and comments here are not to be affiliated with the school.

I am here today as a conservationist, even more so a preservationist.

As a unit of the Department of Interior, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is charged with being a careful custodian of the natural environment. The mission statement of BLM is itself to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Hard to enjoy our public property when one may find themselves trespassing on what should instead be considered industry property. Hard to enjoy a sunset and purple horizons when drag liners and Earth movers gash what used to be a pristine landscape.

We are at a turning point in natural history. We are in the midst of a the sixth mass extinction event, on par with the extinction rate of the Cretaceous. There is no asteroid this time, however. This time, there is simply anthropogenic activity. Whether we avoid a deepening extinction or not depends on our actions.

The number one cause of the current global extinction is habitat loss. When we reduce wilderness to political terminology, when we reduce our landscapes to numbers and the whims of changing administrations we betray a beautiful, eerie, spiritual and ultimately wonderful natural splendor.

Wilderness should be an escape from the Leviathans of human civilization — not subjected to them.

Wilderness is where generations can contemplate and marvel at the wonder of existence. Wilderness is refuge, home, for all flora and fauna. Wilderness reminds us of liberty — liberty blooms in the great out there, in openness and freedom.

It’s high time we protect our public lands, water and wildlife from industrial activity. A new century is ahead of us. It’s time to transition. It’s time to protect nature for nature’s sake — while we still can, while it’s still there!

Let the wild be a place of recreation, physical exertion and reflection. Let ecosystems recover from industrial trespass.

The power wielded by the Department of Interior and awarded to industry is illegitimate. Therefore, under the rules of any decent society, said power needs to be dismantled and distributed to as many hands as possible. Public lands should be democratized.

It is time for numerous visions and resource management plans. Under common control of citizens groups and user associations the tried and true method of Adaptive Collaborative Management can establish a sustainable future.

We all have different motives for being here, different talking points, but we are all here. We are standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Some have been for years. We’re in it for the long haul. So please, stop coal mining on our lands.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m off to the forest for a weekend in the wild.

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