I would like to write about what President Obama has done right for wildlife and the environment, but the good things are hard to find. This is not to say that Obama has not done some positive things. He has. For instance he has admitted that our oceans are becoming more acidic and that this is harmful for all of us. He also agrees that carbon dioxide is dangerous and unhealthy.
Obama has helped some species like the leatherback sea turtles and Canada lynx by increasing their habitat protections. He has stopped the Western Oregon Plan Revision from moving forward. This plan was proposed by the Bush administration and would have rezoned 2.6 million acres of federal public forests for logging purposes. As much as 90% of the forests were designated to be cut. By stopping the plan, Obama has protected old growth forests in both Northern California and Oregon.
Millions of acres of road-less areas have been protected under the current administration, and a million acres of land around the Grand Canyon has been saved from uranium mining.
Tax credits and federal funding towards energy efficient appliances and renewable energy sources were included in the stimulus bill. He has also decided that gas and oil leasing needs reform.
These are the good things.
The bad spots include a recent ruling that allows many more endangered sea turtles to be caught by industrial fishing companies using long line nets. He has also sided with the past administration and weakened protection for one of our most magnificent mammals, the polar bear.
Currently there are plans for Shell to perform offshore oil explorations off the coast of Alaska. These areas will affect polar bear habitat, and the President approves this measure. In the Western United States oil and gas leases are being issued on public lands.
Gray wolves have been robbed of federal protection, allowing states to decide what is best for the wolves in their areas. This has led to aerial gunning practices and the entire decimation of packs in the lower 48 states.
The gross process of mountaintop removal has been approved by this administration. If you are unfamiliar with mountaintop removal, it is an event where the entire tops of mountains are blown off in order to reach coal veins. When the explosion occurs, everything around the mountain is destroyed. Hardwood forests are stripped and all of the debris and toxins from the explosion are pushed into neighboring streams. This poisons the fish, animals, birds and plants that may be living there. It also contaminates water for human communities. Once the mining is over the forests are dead, and there are no trees to store carbon output.
Last night, during his State of the Union speech President Obama briefly addressed clean energy jobs and technology:
"It means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."
Some would argue that, while in Copenhagen, the President failed to deliver viable, workable solutions regarding global warming. He got a big round of applause for the offshore drilling remark. He focused on being the leader in the area of clean, renewable energy, saying that "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."
He's smart. He's attacking the issue from a financial venue. He's saying that if we can make it profitable people will support it. We have to bring in the wealth or otherwise the majority of Americans won't think it's important or worth it to try to save our planet from environmental destruction.
Obama has improved some of the areas that the past administration left in decay. He has made steps to better the natural world, but we are still falling short of seeing the big picture. Without a healthy, clean environment, every living creature suffers. Humans will eventually suffer from our lack of denial and looking the other way. Animals, forests, oceans, and mountain ranges are all ready feeling the effects of our brash disregard.
We have loads of serious issue to face as a country. Some would say that wildlife and nature areas fall way behind job loss and security. This is valid, but looking away doesn't make the problem go away. The environment concerns everyone, not just Republican and Democratic lawmakers. It affects you and me, and all the children hoping to grow up in a world where the air is clean, the streams are clear, and the animals run free.