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Defending Conservation On US Public Lands

The documentary Public Trust is an award-winning film about America’s system of public lands and waters held in trust for all Americans and the fight to protect them. From director David Garrett Byars and Patagonia Films with executive producers Yvon Chouinard and Robert Redford, the film puts the public lands issue front and centre before the election.

Through the work of Montana investigative journalist Hal Herring, Public Trust focuses on three land-based conflicts—the slashing of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; the potential permanent destruction of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the de facto sale of one of the last wild places in America, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The film makes a clear case for protecting public lands and how the extractive industries, driven by only greed and profit, are trying to rob people and their future generations of this shared experience and heritage.

Since it was signed into law over 100 years ago by President Teddy Roosevelt, every president except three – Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush – has used their authority established under the Antiquities Act to protect public lands and waters. And despite increased polarisation on nearly every issue, there is widespread bipartisan support for public lands and waters.

According to a 2019 Conservation in the West poll, more than two-thirds of voters in Western states, a majority of Democrats and Republicans, think Congress should emphasise conservation on public lands.

Redford  said, “Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations., These lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. Public Trust tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It’s a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage.”

Using extensive research and interviews with tribal leaders, government whistle-blowers, journalists and historians, Public Trust follows the people who are fighting back and the forces they are up against. Along the way, viewers meet the heroic activists who are defending the land from corrupt interests.

They include Angelo Baca, Dinè (Navajo), a filmmaker, scholar and activist working to protect Bears Ears; Bernadette Demientieff, a mother, grandmother, and executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee an organisation formed to protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and Spencer Shaver, a fierce defender of the Boundary Waters Wilderness where he grew up hunting and fishing.

Patagonia founder Chouinard said, “Imagine our country without our public lands – without protected parks and streams, wilderness and other wild places. If the oil companies and this administration continue to choose rigs over your kids’ future, we will lose what’s left of our shared 640 million acres. Public Trust is a must see for everyone who enjoys spending time in wild places.”

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Holly Brega

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