The last time my father and I took our semi-annual voyage into a yet-unexplored-by-us wilderness area, I was in a foul mood. The high stress of my job as a political reporter in Washington, D.C. had made me not the best of traveling companions. Yet we could not have picked a more pristine area, replete with a black bear that tore open our food bag while it hung in a pine tree, a portage trail where the howls of timber wolves echoed, and a tiny mouse that seemed to think our empty dessert tin was its new home.
If you’ve ever savored the flavor of wild Alaska salmon, there’s a very good chance that salmon came from southwestern Alaska’s Bristol Bay, where the cold, clean waters of the eastern Bering Sea generate the largest sockeye salmon run in the world.
If you’re a fan of this fish, it might come as a surprise, then, to learn that the world’s largest wild salmon runs are at serious risk.
Despite its status as a world-renowned fishing ground, Bristol Bay has recently come under threat from off-shore drilling and mining proposals.
Known for the last wild herd of bison, bubbling mud pots, wolves, and geysers, Yellowstone National Park is an extraordinary place and very unique to America’s geography. But protecting the special nature of this spectacular park has been a battle.
Thankfully, after years of attack by an administration bent on increasing the roar of snowmobiles, a federal court judge has finally said its time to protect the park.
Throughout the past eight years, the Bush administration has treated our country’s wild lands as if they belong to industry.
Through a series of short-cut measures and regulations that have cut science and the public out of decision making, the administration has consistently rolled back environmental protections and sharply favored industrial use and exploitation of our wild lands above all other public concerns.
As predicted, the Bush Administration continues to push through last-minute regulations and policy changes detrimental to America’s public lands.
The latest is a flawed new wilderness stewardship policy for the National Wildlife Refuge System, released yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service without any opportunity for public comment. Among other things, the new policy exempts the 80 percent of America’s refuges located in Alaska from wilderness review requirements, and totally ignores the very real threats posed to refuges by global warming.
Last week I sat down and listened to a live acoustic guitar session by singer-songwriter, Brett Dennen. I have to admit that I had heard of Brett, but hadn’t ever heard his music. I was floored by the passion he showed as he strummed his guitar and sang with ease. I also learned that he has another passion – wilderness.
With the election over, there’s already much to discuss about the future Obama administration. However, the Bush administration is still in action, and it’s using its final months to target some 624 acres of our public lands.
In covering the final months of this administration, you’ll find a large list of last minute land management plans, regulation re-writes and policy changes that could wreak havoc on protected places.
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.