Skip to main content

public lands

We like to think of our national parks as places that are protected for generations, where outside the visitor center and a few heavily used trails, the vistas, the streams and the wildlife are there now as they have been and ever will be. But some of the West's most iconic parklands—Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, Death Valley, Glen Canyon, Yosemite—have been under assault in recent years.

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

For the past month, the klieg lights have been squarely focused on attempts inside the Beltway to cobble together compromise legislation to address global climate change (AKA the Waxman-Markey bill), and President Obama's commitment at the G-8 summit to keep the planet from heating up more than two degrees celsius.

Meanwhile, out here in the West, it's CO2-emitting business as usual, with the federal Bureau of Land Management this month proposing to lock in long term federal coal leases to giant mining firms. And not small amounts of coal either.

Canada's vast boreal forest (named for Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind) covers more than a third of the country's total landmass and is a larger ecosystem than the Amazon. In addition to providing habitat for a diverse range of species including moose, lynx, grizzly bears and over 3 billion birds, the peat bogs and wetlands of the boreal forest are among the planet's most effective carbon sinks.

Grins are breaking out in Colorado because of a court decision this week that stymies oil and gas drilling on New Mexico's Otero Mesa grasslands.

The 10th Circuit Court ruled that drilling could not proceed on the Mesa because the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Protection Act with its leasing plan. In short, the court said, the plan failed to consider impacts on habitat, species and water, and didn't look at alternatives.

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.

Spring is in the air in Washington, DC and hope seems to permeate every corner of this storied city. Along with the promise of longer days and warmer weather, there's hope that the new congress and administration can help us return to a true participatory democracy. As a member of Earthjustice's legislative team, my biggest hope is that we're witnessing the dawn of a new era when it comes to environmental policy.

Pages

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.