Checking my e-mail this morning I came across an e-mail from the National Wildlife Federationtalking about Daniel Glick, a Colorado journalist, and his open letter to the next president.
Putting th "PUBLIC" Back in Public Lands.
By Daniel Glick
Dear 44th President:
As the 2008 presidential campaign reaches its final stages, the tasks awaiting the victor loom like an endless to-do list. Out here in the West we hope to rank high on that list, because we face serious conservation and environmental issues that will affect the nation at large. During the past eight years, White House plans and policies have done a lot of damage to our part of the country, affecting wildlife and wildlife habitat as well as the quality of human life. We need your help to get things back on track.
You're about to become Landlord-in-Chief of a rich American legacy—the nation's vast holding of public lands that nurture wildlife and industry, clear skies and clean water, healthy ecosystems and healthy people. The federal government administers about a third of the nation's lands in trust for the American people, including national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, national monuments and national historic sites. Between 25 and 80 percent of the land in most western states now falls directly under your supervision—hundreds of millions of acres we as a nation have kept judiciously in the public domain. All told, there's enough federal public land to create 18 states the size of Arizona and 17 the size of Illinois.
Over the years, Congress has passed some impressive laws intended to help strike a balance in our management of these lands, where we might want to mine coal and preserve blue ribbon trout streams, tap gas reserves and set aside elk preserves, use forests for timber and protect forests for timber wolves. Finding a balance between exploitation and protection has been a long struggle, resulting in the multiple-use ideal in which federal lands become bases for camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife habitat as well as mining, logging, livestock grazing and fossil-fuel extraction.
During the past eight years, the nation has seen something of a revolution in how the federal government administers public lands, and in the process even the pretense of balance has disappeared. Large tracts of public land all around the Rocky Mountain West have been bulldozed in the name of rapid, almost uncontrolled oil and gas production, turning critical wildlife habitat into industrial zones. The western United States has seen a no-holds-barred assault on its open spaces, from Alaska's coastal plain, where the oil industry wants to drill one of the last pristine stretches of seashore left in the nation, to New Mexico's Otero Mesa, where ranchers, hunters and conservationists have been fighting the oil and gas industry over a 1.2 million-acre grassland that harbors more than 1,000 native wildlife species, including black-tailed prairie dogs, desert mule deer, mountain lions, golden and bald eagles, and more than 250 songbird species.
My personal favorite paragraph was:
"Someday, the oil and gas will be gone. Here in the West, we're beginning to wonder if our wildlands and wildlife will go with them. Steve Torbit, a former state wildlife biologist who works for NWF in Colorado, says, “I'm concerned that the West that I was born into, and that I've lived in and explored and loved all my life, in fact isn't going to be there for the next generation if we don't do a better job of managing development.”
Daniel Glick did a wonderful job setting the scene and the need for something to be done before it's too late. I hope you enjoy reading this article as much as I and please feel free to learn more about what you can personally do to help, click here.