A time to depart, a time to grow, a time to plan

Six months is not a long time or is it? Six months in the life of an infant brings some of the most vital stages of development. Six months can be measured by two weather seasons. This length of time can be significant or just create passing memories. For me, the last six months working at the Wilderness Society have been more than enlightening and have changed my vision of the future.

Throughout my time here, the staff has graciously taught me the ins and outs of the environmental world. The challenges of defending any issue are great but when it comes to the management of our natural resources, finding the correct information is more difficult than expected. Weeding through information about climate change, foresting practices, renewable energy and the like can be very confusing.

American history illustrated that using our natural resources was vital to the development of our great nation. This development did not come without consequence. We polluted our water supply, cut down the trees that provide the clean air we breathe and unintentionally created our own fire hazards by mismanaging the forests we harvested. While this is not the case across the board, throughout my time at TWS, I learned that many areas have suffered this fate.

“The Wilderness Society's mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places.”

In my case, mission accomplished. I learned about the importance of restoring and conserving our wild places for future generations. This is not a clichéd environmental slogan and it’s not just about saving a few trees. If we are not careful with the way we manage our forests, life in America as we know it will change. The worst of these dangers may not manifest in our lifetime but the way we currently treat this land will reverberate for centuries. When I started here, I did not know what was at stake.

I have always appreciated hiking but I didn’t fully understand the significance of our public land. National parks and forests provide more than their face value. For example, they contribute vital economic value to their surrounding communities, watersheds on our public land provide our water supply, and forests act as a carbon sink for our emissions. They even provide a sense of identity and spirituality for people. Now, a new sense of pride comes over me when I visit these places because I better understand their impact. I hope more Americans will get out and experience these special places.

Movies like Wall-E might seem outlandish but if we don’t preserve our forest ecosystems, we are at risk of changing our natural landscape forever. Six months’ time can change very little or it can change a lot. As Congress votes on the continuing resolution that will fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011, environmental programs may lose important funding that would continue to protect and restore our treasured lands. Many members of Congress claim that these cuts are sensible but they would take many steps backward in the process of preserving America’s vast resources for future generations.

Presidents like Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Carter have recognized the magnitude of places like Yosemite Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Appalachian Mountains and the significance of agencies like the EPA. What can we do to match these contributions? From now on, I plan to evaluate this question every time I vote as well as when my decision makers vote on conservation legislation. Just as important, I plan to educate my family and friends about these issues too.

Photo: Ansel Adams Wilderness in California.