While the Trump administration works to weaken environmental regulations in the United States, it seems the president's business has been upsetting precious ecosystems abroad. According to reports, a Trump golf course damaged the environment in Scotland despite promises not to do so. The golf course was built on a fragile dune system that is unique in its shifting sands and varied plant life, all of which is now in danger.
The site of Trump's Aberdeenshire course has always been a controversial one, and was opposed by environmentalists from its inception. Since its opening in 2012, there have been questions about the consequences of the building but no answers. Following years of silence on the issue, these details only came out with a Freedom of Information Act.
Scottish National Heritage has written a number of reports, now released in part by The Guardian, that show there has been serious damage to the area, which is considered a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). The UK's SSSI conservation designation acknowledges special features of the land that give it a protected status. Scottish Natural Heritage inspectors wrote:
Construction of the new golf course involved earthworks, planting of trees, greens and fairways, drainage, irrigation and grass planting. This has affected the natural morphology of the dunes and interfered with natural processes. Most of its important geomorphological features have been lost or reduced to fragments. Nearby marine terraces have also been reduced to fragments.
Experts have signaled this degradation is so severe it could even threaten the SSSI designation. "These documents show that considerable damage has been done to Foveran Links, and that it is very unlikely that it will retain its SSSI status,” Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told The Guardian.
Trump executives disagree. Trump International Executive Vice President Sarah Malone said in a statement that the course covers just 5 percent of the protected area. Furthermore, Malone says, "many of the special attributes of the land remains and the wildlife is flourishing.”
"As for the small portion that we do own, no other SSSI site in the land has seen more environmental care or investment," Malone said in the statement. "The site was ignored until Trump took ownership, and is now celebrated and enjoyed by many."
The Trump Organization would like to continue investing in the site by building 500 new homes and other facilities, a 150 million pound investment. The move was released just last week and is the second phase of the development that the Trumps would like to see ultimately include some 1500 homes and a large hotel. Many of the promises used to get approval for the site, including some 6000 jobs remain unfulfilled.
Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said in 2008 that the plan potentially endangers even more protected sites throughout Scotland. "It appears that the desires of one high-profile overseas developer, who refused to compromise one inch, have been allowed to override the legal protection of this important site. And we fear this sets a precedent that will undermine the whole protected-sites network in Scotland.”
Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland. His mother was born there and he seems to feel a great warmth to the country, even if it's not reciprocated by the people. During his recent visit to the UK, Trump stayed at his other golf course Turnberry and did his best to plug it while visiting.
The news media more thoroughly covered the protests against his administration that occurred throughout his visit. One paraglider even illegally entered the air space around the golf course with a banner that read, "Trump Well Below Par."
Environmental activists working to protect the Aberdeenshire site might well agree.