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Former Sierra Club president Edgar Wayburn once pointed out that, in at least one respect, wilderness was like any other natural resource: "Once it is consumed, it is gone forever."

When that happens, we lose a lot more than scenery. We lose critical habitat for plants and animals that are already stressed by climate disruption. We lose recreational opportunities and the long-term economic benefits for neighboring communities that come with them. We lose an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage -- not just for ourselves but also for generations to come.

The good news is that we still have time to protect some of our finest public lands before it's too late. The bad news is that Congress has become a black hole from which no conservation legislation has been able to escape for several years. Instead, the House of Representatives has cranked out a stream of bills that would increase drilling, hand over sacred lands to foreign mining companies, extend grazing leases without proper environmental review; allow states to take over management of federal lands; and undermine (or even eliminate) environmental protections such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Although it would be wonderful if Congress were to come to its senses anytime soon, chances of that are slim. If we want any real progress on protecting public lands, then our best hope is the executive branch. And in fact, there's reason to be optimistic that the Obama administration might deliver.

Last Halloween, at a National Press Club event, Obama's new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, fired this shot across the bow of the most dysfunctional and anti-environmental Congress in history:

Protecting the special places that communities care about most and passing sustainable budgets that support our public lands are the kind of commonsense, bipartisan actions that Americans want to see Congress take, but we cannot and will not hold our breath forever. We owe it to future generations to act, and President Obama is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short.

Actually, President Obama has stepped up on several occasions and designated new national monuments. But given the current state of Congress, he needs to take his game to a higher level. Many first-rate candidates for national monument status are still waiting -- from the seashore of Northern California to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks of New Mexico. The opportunity to save these places won't always be there. President Obama needs to act before it's too late.

We cannot and will not hold our breath forever. Well, why hold it at all? Let's tell President Obama that we're ready to see him do what Congress won't: Protect these wild places before they're gone forever. Then we'll all be able to breathe a little easier.

Originally posted to Michael Brune on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 11:05 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've witnessed the destruction of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Maritime Live Oak forests along the East Coast in my lifetime. How could I know that the miles of live oaks along the barrier islands of North Carolina at the time I graduated from college would be destroyed by rampant development by the the time my children were grown? It was unimaginable to me then. It's a object lesson to me now.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 12:54:24 PM PST

  •  Time to protect Colorado's Browns Canyon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Senator Mark Udall has a bill to protect the spectacular Brown's Canyon but since it's never going to get through the Republican House, President Obama should declare it a National Monument. See High Country News

    Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., wants to change that. A former Outward Bound director, wilderness proponent and mountaineer (he’s climbed Denali, Aconcagua and 26,000 feet of Everest), Udall announced on Tuesday the culmination of a project he’s been working on for 18 months: a bill to create a brand new, 22,000-acre National Monument in Browns Canyon, including 10,500 acres of wilderness. After soliciting thousands of comments and holding several public meetings, Udall seems to have found a recipe for success – the support of local businesses, national monument designation (which offers more flexible management than pure wilderness), and unchanged access for hunters, ranchers, off-roaders and human-powered recreation such as rafting.

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 01:29:53 PM PST

  •  Republished to DK Greenroots (n/t) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    willyr, OLinda
  •  set aside bristol Bay in AK, the north Woods (0+ / 0-)

    in Maine, Chasepeake Bay iN VA and MD, and the great lakes. if you can set aside the marianas trench, you can protect the largest collection of freshwater lakes in the world.

  •  The President has set aside 9 national monuments, (0+ / 0-)

    the record by any one president is 19 by bill clinton. lets hope obama breaks that record.

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