The 112th Congress is now in full swing, and if you walked around much of Capitol Hill you might not think we had a climate crisis on our hands. (Climate Fun Fact: today, and every other day, Americans will emit roughly 19,000,000,000 metric tons of carbon pollution, and much of that will stay in our skies for 200-300 years.) You certainly wouldn’t hear much concern over the fact that 2010 saw the second worst case of global coral bleaching on record, nor that temps in the Northeast and across the world pushed 2010 into the unfortunate status of one of the hottest years on record.
That said, climate champs have at least one recent victory to celebrate:
Just before 2010 came to a close, Sec. Salazar signed an Order (SO 3310)—revoking Bush-era BLM wilderness management guidelines that put sensitive wildlands at risk. By establishing new guidance on Wild Lands designation and protection, the Administration is taking an important step forward in helping our wildlands, wildlife and communities remain resilient in a warming world.
Our wild places are vital to addressing the climate crisis – and as those temps get hotter, our wildlands will be even more critical.
Healthy, protected wildlands help fight both sides of the climate change coin, first by dealing with dangerous carbon pollution, and by helping keep communities resilient in a warming world.
Healthy wildlands can help store and trap additional carbon dioxide—keeping it out of our skies while we transition to a low-carbon economy. In fact, our forests currently capture about 14% of the U.S’s annual carbon pollution. The majestic forests of thePacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska hold more carbon per acre than any others—including rainforests in the Amazon! Additionally, large, connected landscapes will give critters and communities the best possible chance at adapting to climate change. Healthy wildlands can serve as critical habitat, migration corridors, and refuges for species seeking to adapt to climate disruptions—while protect valuable and critical natural services for communities across the country (not to mention protecting our natural heritage for future generations).
While this order doesn’t amount to the dramatic reduction in carbon pollution and massive ramp-up in resilience investment that we must make, it is certainly a step in the right direction. But we’ll need to hold Congress’ feet to the fire in the weeks and months ahead to ensure we get more climate victories – otherwise we’ll all be feeling the heat.
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Photo: South Fork of the Eel River - Bob Wick - Courtesy Bureau of Land Management