As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to "uphold and defend" the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which set out to protect nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forest lands across the country. Not long ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has responsibility for the Forest Service among many things, announced that he will personally review any projects proposed in roadless areas. This move was labelled a year-long "time out" for road building and logging by some in the media, but in fact, there's no guarantee.
The Latest On: Forests
Remember "Healthy Forests"? This was one of the euphonious program names hatched by Karl Rove or another of the Bush wordsmiths to mask a real purpose. There was also the Clear Skies Initiative, which actually aimed to weaken the Clean Air Act.
Healthy Forests argued that the best way to control wildlfire and protect rural communities was to thin the forests of dead brush and sick trees, such growth having accumulated to dangerous levels owing to decades of fire suppression.
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.
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!