President Obama joins Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and other legendary conservationists in the Wilderness Hall of Fame.
Credit: Bob Riha Jr. (USDA) flickr.
Not long after taking office, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, at that point the largest addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System in over a decade. It turned out to set the tone for the rest of his administration.
Often vying with fierce congressional opposition, Obama would protect more lands and waters than any other president, defend wildlands that are "Too Wild to Drill," and tackle climate change and fossil fuel dependence while ramping up renewable energy development.
President Obama proved himself to be a true champion who pushed many conservation measures over the finish line
In the end, this honor was a natural choice. President Obama joins Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and other legendary conservationists in the Wilderness Hall of Fame.
As Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams wrote for High Country News in January, local coalitions and advocates nationwide can rightfully share much of the credit for Obama’s successes, "But the president proved himself to be a true champion who pushed many conservation measures over the finish line."
President Obama used the Antiquities Act 34 times to establish or expand national monuments, culminating with the Gold Butte (Nevada) and Bears Ears (Utah) national monuments and the expansion of the California Coastal and Cascade-Siskiyou (Oregon) national monuments in early 2017.
In addition to safeguarding wild landscapes, President Obama has a remarkable record of diversifying our parks and public lands by recognizing the contributions of traditionally underrepresented groups. He designated the first monument dedicated to LGBTQ rights and also used the Antiquities Act to salute the civil rights, labor and women's suffrage movements.
Gold Butte National Monument (Nevada) was among the new monuments established by President Obama. Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).
As the threat of climate change became ever more urgent, President Obama met the challenge head on. He committed the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate accord; pioneered the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act; and even released a rule to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands.
President Obama also recognized that some places are simply "Too Wild to Drill." He undertook historic actions to finally cancel most of the remaining oil and gas leases located in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, cancelled many leases in Colorado's Roan Plateau and Thompson Divide and even blocked new drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean.
President Obama cancelled illegally issued drilling leases in Colorado’s Thompson Divide, a scenic locale that is "too wild to drill." Credit: Peter Hart.
Put simply, few presidents—if any—have done as much as President Obama did to safeguard our planet and our country for future generations. He is a thoroughly deserving inductee into the Wilderness Hall of Fame, and a figure whom other leaders present and future would do well to emulate.