While concerns about the economy continue to generate huge media interest, a “Who’s Who” of national reporters turned their attention for an hour to thinking about what the new Obama Administration might mean to America’s public lands and the wildlife that call them home.
Former World Bank Chief Economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, reiterated Oct. 27 that failure to confront global warming will result in a much more dire economic crisis than today’s financial meltdown. Many of the losses could occur on our public lands in the form of drought, disease, degradation of our forests, watersheds and biodiversity to the point where natural systems can no longer support the human communities that depend on them, according to leading scientists.
Six high school students huddled around a campfire at dusk surrounded by the Clearwater National Forest; their eyes fixed and their ears intently listened to a thrilling fireside story. However, this story was much different than the usual camp tales that force our minds to wander as something scratches the outside of our tents at night.
What if you were put in the same room with other conservationists, timber workers, the Forest Service, and local community leaders and asked how to manage a national forest? At first you might have hesitation and uncertainty, and rightly so as these groups have often worked against each other and had trouble hearing each other’s seemingly disconnected voices.
When I last visited Joshua Tree National Park, I couldn’t help but notice the number of teetering Joshua Trees interspersed between the creosote bush, ocotillo and chollo cactus of the high Mojave and low Colorado desert landscapes. A friend explained that these iconic trees, which are unique to this landscape, can become too large for their own roots.
Between the time I was born and the time I entered kindergarten, we lost John and Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But we also gained: the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and The Wilderness Act. Even amid the loss and disarray (rioting in our cities and body counts in a senseless war being my earliest memories of television), there was the promise of freedom and wholeness.
Louise Tucker may be tearful and sleep-deprived this morning, but she assures me she couldn’t be more joyful. Louise, like much of the world, proudly watched President-Elect Barack Obama make history last night, sealed by his humble message that “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change.”