On Wednesday, President Donald Trump proclaimed the month of June to be both Great Outdoors Month and National Ocean Month, an annual practice that often encourages Americans to relish in the country’s natural beauty. Former President George W. Bush first proclaimed both in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and the tradition has been carried on.
In 2008, Bush said Americans had a “solemn responsibility to care for our seas and show concern for the plant and animal life that inhabit them.” Ahead of his own such proclamations last year, former President Barack Obama said the U.S. would “redouble our efforts to preserve the health and resilience of our vast oceans.”
However, Trump appears to have taken a different tack than his predecessors:
“National Ocean Month celebrates the mighty oceans and their extraordinary resources. This month, we recognize the importance of harnessing the seas for our national security and prosperity …
Today, our offshore areas remain underutilized and often unexplored. We have yet to fully leverage new technologies and unleash the forces of economic innovation to more fully develop and explore our ocean economy.”
The president includes one scant line about the need for “protecting the marine environment for present and future generations,” but his statements mostly echo those found in the administration’s America First Energy Plan. They also appear to further the White House’s openly antagonistic response to Obama’s vast environmental legacy, including rollbacks of climate change legislation, the opening up offshore drilling and the approval of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
The president’s proclamation for Great Outdoors Month, while notably tamer (he encourages Americans to “experience the beauty and adventure of our nation’s lakes, mountains and forests”), also lies in direct contradiction to his promises to open up federal lands to energy exploration and reverse national monument designations made in the waning days of Obama’s presidency.
All of those moves come as the president repeatedly celebrates and honors the environment, including his well-publicized donation of his first quarter salary to the National Park Service. In reality, the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency have been very bad for the planet and his proposed budget for 2018 includes a $1.5 billion cut to the Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service.
Environmentalists have already begun suing the White House en masse over such decisions and more than 100,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., in April to urge the president to act on climate change.
On Thursday, however, the president is expected to announce his decision regarding the landmark Paris climate accord, an agreement between all but two countries that’s meant to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Reports emerged this week that he would withdraw the U.S. from the deal, despite widespread opposition to such plans, including from members of his own cabinet.