As President Obama prepares to deliver the State of the Union address, he should bear in mind the benefits of America’s wilderness and other public lands have to our communities, our economy and our people. With Congress struggling to move legislation, we are hopeful the president and his administration will ensure nation’s outdoor heritage is protected. The Wilderness Society believes that for President Obama’s administration to leave a lasting conservation legacy, they must:
- Use presidential authorities to designate new monuments and protected places. If congress does not begin to pass some of the 25 wilderness and conservation bills that are deadlocked, the president should use his statutory authorities to protect those places himself.
- Restore a balance between drilling and conservation of public lands by prioritizing conservation alongside identifying areas for development. Since the start of the Obama administration, leasing for oil and gas drilling has outpaced conservation with 2.5 acres leased for each acre protected. Embracing new tools to achieve both objectives will provide the energy we need while protecting the places Americans love.
- Continue fighting for a budget that invests in America’s outdoor economy. The president should reject any budget that results in more seasonal closures of America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands. Outdoor recreation on America’s public lands contributes $646 billion in spending nationwide each year—more than is spent on pharmaceuticals or automobiles.
- Continue to implement much-needed reforms to BLM’s oil and gas program to ensure that drilling is done in the right way, in the right places and with fair return to American taxpayers. This includes identifying areas that are too special to drill and should be off limits to development.
- Use renewable energy projects as a way to reduce human impact on climate change. Their focus should start with already degraded lands and placed in development zones where wild landscapes are not disturbed.
- Invest in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, while at the same time working to engage public and private sector partners in fully funding service corps projects on our public lands.
The following statement is from The Wilderness Society’s president, Jamie Williams:
“America’s lands are the bedrock of our country and symbols of our strength and resilience as a nation. The best way to honor our natural heritage and celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act is for President Obama to build on this great American legacy by making conservation a priority of his administration.
Over the next 50 years, conservation Americas’ wildlands will be of great importance, and our greatest challenge is to strike the right balance between the energy we need and the places we love.
We are hopeful that the president and his team can work with congress to move key legislation forward to protect our wild public lands. When congress does not act, we are counting on the president and his administration to set a new standard for protecting and better managing our magnificent natural and cultural legacy.”