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public lands

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

Sen. Lisa Murkowski seems determined to undermine the Clean Air Act, and has enlisted industry lobbyists in her quest. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen discussed why it's critical to take action now to protect this important environmental law.

The days of rampant, indiscriminant oil and gas drilling on public lands are over, according to an announcement from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The BLM will develop and extend the environmental review processes for public lands drilling plans, something Earthjustice attorneys have advocated for years. 

The DOE just released new efficiency standards for Laundromat washing machines, but unfortunately they won't do enough to weed the least efficient from the market. Next time you take a trip to the Laundromat, try to find a front-loading machine, as these tend to waste less water and energy than top-loaders.

If you haven't heard much about the rare Pacific fisher, it might be its rarity after centuries of fur-trapping and logging in the Pacific northwest. Now, an Earthjustice lawsuit has helped make sure it's still eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Find out more about this mighty porcupine hunter in Monday Reads.

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

On November 5, 2009, something happened in Colorado that hasn't happened in a long, long time: the U.S. Forest Service rejected a proposal to turn a natural area into ski runs and a magnet for private land development.  The natural area is Snodgrass Mountain, which includes inventoried roadless lands, beautiful aspen stands, raptor habitat, and open space.  

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.

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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.