Back in my early days at Earthjustice I got into an argument with a colleage that has stuck with me ever since. She (no names) observed that if we—the movement in general—conceded that restoration of damaged ecosystems is possible that we'll never be able to protect forests, wetlands, parks and the like because developers could simply say they'll eventually restore the land to its former glory.
The Latest On: forests
Wildlife Quiz: What river valley has the most important habitat for grizzlies, wolves, wolverines and lynx in the Rocky Mountains?
Hint: The river forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park, and straddles the Canadian/US border between British Columbia and Montana.
Answer: The Flathead River.
The Flathead was recently named British Columbia's most endangered river, and the fifth most endangered river in the United States.
Last November, as Barack Obama won the election, we recommended a list of "easy things" the new president could immediately do to cement his promises about being a pro-environment president. This is our second update on how he's doing.
The first Earth Day, 39 years ago today, was a godsend for a country mired in war and riven by racial, political and cultural issues. Arriving suddenly—as a gift whose time had come—it offered folks something to unite around: the idea of an entire planet, our home, in peril.
Two million acres of new wilderness, miles of new scenic rivers, the withdrawal of land in the Wyoming Range and elsewhere, all signed into law by President Obama (it still feels really good to type that) just in time for my birthday. The bill, a so-called omnibus, was a patchwork of nearly 170 separate bills, many of which had been kicking around for quite a while.
I only wish they had added one more: A bill to codify the Roadless Rule of 2001.
A couple of weeks ago we jumped the gun and announced that Mineral King, a lovely high-elevation valley in the southern Sierra Nevada in California, would be added to the National Wilderness System along with around 170 other areas totalling about two million acres. Last minute parliamentary tricks in the House kept it from happening then.
Today, under new rules, the House passed this monumental bill -- the greatest single expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years. President Obama is expected to quickly sign it into law.
Mineral King is especially close to our hearts because it was a lawsuit in the late 1960s challenging plans for a huge ski resort in the valley that gave birth to modern environmental law and to Earthjustice itself.
The King Lives! Long Live the King!
That yellow you see is egg on our face.
A few weeks back, the Senate passed a bill providing for a two-million acre expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and we all cheered. It was a umbrella bill that encompassed some 170 smaller bills, many of which had been pending for years.
In less than a month, President Obama has tackled several items on a list of Six Easy Things that Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen set forth for the new administration last November.
1) Move towards reducing CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act
When one hears the phrase "Boy Scout," one picture that comes to mind is a bunch of youngsters out in the woods, around a campfire, enjoying marshmallows as well as nature. One might assume that on top of "trustworthy," "obedient," and "brave," Boy Scouts might also put protection of the Great Outdoors among their values.
A recent investigative series has thrown some cold water on that notion, however, exposing activities of some scouting groups that are cringe-inducing. One piece has a part of the scouting organization clearcutting lands to make profits, just like the boys in Big Timber have been doing for years. Another piece has another scouting group killing threatened salmon to fill a lake for recreation, and then using their political muscle to avoid any penalties.
There's no doubt that many individual scout troops are doing important things for the youngsters involved, and that the volunteer parents who make the organization work are conscientious caring folks who are trying to help boys become responsible adults.
And any organization that needs money to keep its work going and that supprts a large bureaucracy like the Scouts is likely to have its problems. Heaven knows us folks in the Environmental Movement have been known to not always "be the change" we want to see in the world. (Please don't make fun of my gas guzzling hybrid SUV.)
The Scouts could use the airing of their dirty laundry to say "Whoops! We could do a lot better." Sadly, it seems the national headquarters of the BSA is choosing to hunker in its bunker, issuing a press statement that in part shoots the messenger: "We are extremely disappointed that [Scouts'] efforts have been portrayed in such a negative light."
That doesn't exactly seem like the "brave" response.
After writing a blog item about the storied Mineral King valley, I crafted an essay about it for the High Country News. The news is that it is about to be declared America's newest wilderness. Here's how I started the HCN article:
"A half-million abandoned mines litter the American West, many dribbling poisons into rivers and streams. But after more than a century of healing, one such place is poised to become one of America's newest wilderness areas. It's a testament to the resilience of nature and the vision of the people who fought to preserve it."