In 2009 you helped us begin to tear down the destructive environmental legacy of the Bush administration. Our members and supporters sent more than 1 million letters to decision makers, while our staff worked closely with the incoming administration and Congress.
After years of suffering through a presidential administration that starved federal conservation programs of adequate funding, such programs are finally getting the needed boost they deserve.
In October, Congress gave a significant funding increase to the Interior Department, which is responsible for most U.S. land conservation and management. The $4.6 billion funding increase will go towards a series of important projects and initiatives long pushed for by The Wilderness Society and the rest of the conservation community.
Wildlife, wildfire suppression, climate change research and other natural resource programs get a much-needed boost in funding in the 2010 Interior Appropriations bill. The 16.8 percent increase is a welcome change after eight years of inadequate funding that had led to the shutdown of some National Wildlife Refuges and research programs, as well as shortfalls in funding for firefighting on public lands.
Good news travels quickly — and sometimes even hitches a ride on the currents of creeks and rivers. Moments after a Pennsylvania congressman announced last week that Congress is chipping in $700,000 to help conserve a critical watershed in the Keystone state, the ripple effects floated toward the some 25 million people who rely on the Highlands region of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for their drinking water.
In the Four Corners region, among the rugged mountains, mesas and deep canyons of the high desert there are pockets of desert wilderness where the soil is the only thing standing between travelers and a wealth of ancient Pueblo artifacts.
In these lands, the ancient Pueblo people once settled villages with hundreds of family farms. Today, the area is rich with evidence of their small communities, but it’s also a hotbed for those looking to profit from illegally selling this priceless cultural heritage.
A few months ago, President Obama signed legislation to help communities revitalize forests and boost economies. The law sets the stage for Congress to provide funding so the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (FLRA) can put additional shovels on the ground next year.
It offers communities the opportunity to work together to look at larger scale, long-term restoration activities that benefit both forests and communities.
As the hot muggy days of summer descend upon our great nation’s capital, I find my mind wandering back to a little cabin in the woods of Maine. The place was nothing fancy; it was a real sweep-the-leaves-off-out-from-the corners kind of deal. But I’d be hard pressed to find better summertime memories than running wild under the cool pine trees and the way the chilly lake took my breath away every time I went crashing into its waters.
Following eight years of unbalanced, exploitative policies toward wildlands, the opening days of President Barack Obama’s administration appear to be a promising start in a new era of wildlands and wildlife protection.
In his first 100 days, President Obama reversed or put on hold a number of misguided Bush administration policies, signaling a more balanced use of public lands. He also put muscle behind campaign promises to reinstate science in federal decision making and to advance a clean energy future.
Star power can certainly help raise awareness of a critical issue. Like it or not, human beings are social animals and few among us are immune to the bit of a thrill that comes with rubbing elbows with celebrities. Even members of Congress get caught up in the excitement.