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public lands

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

In the not-too-distant past, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar issued a bold call to action for his department. With authority over hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and the vast majority of coal, oil, and gas owned by taxpayers, he stated that his department would be "taking the lead" in protecting the nation's wildlife and water from climate change, and that doing so would "require us to change how we manage the lands."

One of the more frustrating tactics used repeatedly by the Bush administration in environmental matters was something we called “sue and settle.” These were cases filed against the government by states, industrial interests, or others seeking, for example, to open up wild lands to development.

Reporters speak of a story having legs, meaning that it is likely to continue over an extended period. Spotted owls have legs.

The story began in the late '80s, when it became evident that out-of-control logging in ancient forests in the Northwest was about to extinguish the owls. Earthjustice sued, and managed to achieve Endangered Species Act protection for the owls.

End of story? Not quite.
 

There is no reason to beat around the bush: Tuesday's election results are a setback in our progress towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.

At a time when the world desperately needs leadership from the United States, voters have installed in the House of Representatives those who have vowed to do all they can to obstruct progress in cleaning up dirty coal-burning power plants, reducing health-destroying and climate-disrupting pollution, and protecting wild places and wildlife.

Headlines in the last week trumpeted a decision by Xcel, Colorado's largest utility, to convert several old coal-fired power plants into natural gas plants.

The decision was hailed by some as a victory for the environment, since natural gas, when burned, results in fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases.  Some proclaimed the political power of coal on the wane in the West and natural gas ascendent.

The state of Washington announced a deal with Canadian-based TransAlta Corp. last week to "clean up" pollution from mercury and oxides of nitrogen. But the plan is sorely lacking.

A coalition of faith, environmental and public health groups are working to see the TransAlta coal plant, the state's largest single pollution source, converted to cleaner fuels or shut down by 2015. Coalition members were not impressed by this sweetheart deal and have already taken their case to the courts.

America's largest national forest -- the Tongass in Alaska -- has been given another year's reprieve from most logging and mining by the Obama administration. Protecting the forest has long been the focus of Earthjustice legal efforts. As reported by the Associated Press:

The Obama administration Friday extended for another year the moratorium on most logging and mining in millions of acres of remote and rugged backcountry sections of national forests.

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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.