What Obama's 'era of responsibility' means for conservationists

Inauguration. Photo by sneakerdog, Courtesy Flickr.

As I shivered in the cold on our nation's front porch last Tuesday with millions of other Americans at President Obama's inauguration, I could not help but feel warm. For the first time in my adult life, one of our elected leaders had issued a call for each of us to do more. Echoing the words President John F. Kennedy once spoke to my parents’ generation, President Obama noted that our citizenship is more than just a privilege but also a great responsibility.

With our nation facing gathering storm clouds, Obama said:

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

“This is the price and the promise of citizenship.”

Each of us must seek to better understand this price. At the Wilderness Society, we attempt to pay our dues by helping to care for our nation’s wild places, hoping that our work ensures part of our natural world’s majesty will exist when future generations need places to recreate, breathe clean air and find solitude. However, our work would never be possible without the involvement of tens of thousands of Americans who love the land — places such as Yellowstone National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Heeding President Obama’s call means that we must find more ways to renew the bond between government and citizen. We can make our voices heard by attending public hearings, commenting on resource management plans and educating others on how best to manage our public lands. Each of us owns the 623 million acres that make up our national heritage and, right now, we can work to ensure science and reason prevail in managing these lands equitably for their best uses.

We hope you can take a moment to become better educated on the many issues facing our public lands and the agencies that manage them. Without your help, we can’t hope to influence our newly elected leaders as they face decisions that will impact our nation’s public lands for decades.

You can find out more about issues such as how wilderness might be designated, what the roadless rule means for our national forests and how energy development has proceeded on our public lands under the Bush administration by visiting our new briefing book. Our staff is working hard to put this book in the hands of the 111th Congress and the new administration. Now we need your help ensuring its message is heard.

photo: Inauguration. Photo by sneakerdog, Courtesy Flickr.