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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!

Last week, a Colorado legislative committee approved new oil and gas drilling rules that will protect drinking water, wildlife and the state's natural resources. The state spent almost two years developing the rules, which will be the most comprehensive in the nation, to deal with the impacts of the state's unprecedented oil and gas boom.

Earthjustice has been there since the beginning as attorneys for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. Before the committee hearing, Earthjustice activists in Colorado sent more than 1,300 e-mail messages to legislators urging their support.

Order "Roadless Rules" at www.islandpress.org/roadlessrules. On the checkout page type in RR09 (that’s a zero, not a capital O) for a 25 percent discount.

As longtime readers of this screed know all too well, I’ve been obsessed by the Roadless Rule for a long time. The trigger for this was when several states, the timber industry, a few counties, some off-road vehicle interests, and an Indian tribe challenged the rule in court.

The news on climate change is coming thick and fast these days. Over the weekend, news reports stated scientific studies showed global warming accelerating faster than predicted.  Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to take a second look at regulating CO2 from coal-fired power plants as a pollutant, signaling a 180 from the Bush administrati

After cancelling oil and gas leases in Utah last week, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar is strongly hinting that he might do the same with a crown jewel of Colorado -- the Roan Plateau. The Roan is a rippling expanse of natural riches that rises dramatically 3,000 feet above a plain in the state's northwest quadrant.

The Roan was leased off for oil and gas exploitation last August despite massive public outcry from a remarkably diverse group of folks, including hunters and fishers, Republicans and Democrats, locals and people from across the country, and of course dedicated environmentalists. Salazar, then a U.S. senator from Colorado, was among those urging the Bureau of Land Management to not proceed with the lease sale.

Now, as boss of the BLM, Salazar is in position to put money where his mouth was last year -- $113 million in lease payments already divvied up between the state and feds. But it's a pittance compared to the priceless wilderness qualities that would be displaced by industrial drilling operations.

In those cold days of last December -- as Bush feverishly tried to finish crippling the nation's environmental protections -- the new day promised by Obama seemed only a flicker at the end of an 8-year tunnel.

After today's news out of Utah, that flicker is looking more like a flare. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar announced the cancellation of oil and gas leases on 110,000 acres of public land abutting some of the West's purest wilderness. Aside from validating Earthjustice legal action challenging those leases, the cancellation could be interpreted as the first sign of Obama turning back the Bush tide.

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."

Read the full HCN story.

When the history of our times is written, I bet the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president will be seen as one of the more bizarre political aberrations in American history, which has already had plenty. One would think that the resounding repudiation she and Senator McCain suffered in the general election would have chastened both, but while the senator has been mostly dignified and supportive of the new administration, Gov. Palin rumbles along as if she should be taken seriously. I mean, what’s up with that?

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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.