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Two years ago, after a decades-long struggle that involved Native Americans, biologists, Earthjustice, and eventually Congress itself, engineers began to dismantle two century-old dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The river is only 70 miles long, but most of it is in the Olympic National Park, and so is in pretty good shape, having avoided the fate of other Pacific Coast streams, that have been badly damaged by logging.

Last week, Earthjustice and 20+ partner organizations hosted an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and honor some of the most important champions of this visionary law.

On Dec. 28, 1973, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass the ESA—one of the most effective environmental laws ever enacted—with near-unanimous support. The Act was then signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon.

It was early October, but the trees were still a vibrant green. Fall had not yet arrived and winter was still a distant concern in Kingston, TN. Fishing boats and jet skis were tied to docks along the Clinch River, and even though it was a Thursday morning it was obvious that folks in this small community were already gearing up for weekend fun.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be done protecting Forest Service roadless areas because they were all protected? If you have followed the tortured history of President Clinton’s national Roadless Area Conservation Rule—which Earthjustice defended for more than a decade, with success—you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2001 rule settled the matter.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.