Public lands protection continues to be a key priority for LCV. After eight years of land grabs by the Bush Administration and their friends in the oil and gas industry, the legislative outlook has improved significantly. In March 2009, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act into law. This landmark piece of legislation is a collection of over 160 bills that will protect millions of acres of American natural resources.
LCV is moving forward with measures to further protect our natural heritage. Currently, Congress is considering America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, which would provide protection to iconic and fragile lands in Utah which remains under siege from corporate oil developers and under-regulated off-road vehicle abuse. The bill enjoys strong support in both bodies, with over 160 co-sponsors in the House and more than 20in the Senate.
Roadless Area Conservation
In the waning days of the Clinton administration, the US Forest Service adopted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. This directive prohibited road construction on the 58.5 million acres of pristine roadless areas that still exist in our National Forests. The rule was popular with the millions of Americans who depend on roadless areas for drinking water, recreation, and as a refuge for the wildlife they cherish.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration didn't see the merit of the rule. The administration took steps to exempt Alaska's Tongass National Forest- the world's largest existing temperate rainforest- from the protections of the rule and made no attempt to defend the rule from lawsuits from the logging and drilling industries. The result was a patchwork of conflicting directives that have left these pristine areas vulnerable to deforestation and destruction.
In June 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a one year moratorium on roadless area development. This action has provided these delicate lands with temporary safety, but they still remain vulnerable in the long run.
In the interim, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act. If passed, this legislation would provide a clear mandate for the preservation of our roadless areas. Both pieces have broad support, with 25 Senators and 158 Representatives signed on as original co-sponsors.
LCV strongly urges actions from both the Administration and Congress to ensure that our few remaining wild lands will remain safe from logging and drilling for future generations.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Jewel at Risk
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is truly one of America's natural treasures. Located in northern Alaska, this vast wilderness expanse is virtually untouched by humans and is home to moose, caribou, polar bears, and millions of migratory birds, as well as a unique collection of arctic and sub-arctic landscapes.
This priceless landscape is in danger though. Big Oil, with support from the Bush W. Bush administration, long argued that tapping the Refuge's oil resources would lower gasoline prices and reduce reliance on foreign oil. However, a Department of Energy report concluded that drilling in the Refuge wouldn't lower prices at the pump in the short term, and at peak production would only save consumers a penny a gallon by 2025. By contrast, modest improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency would save far more oil than the refuge could ever yield.
At what lengths are we willing to go to feed our oil addiction? Is it worth sacrificing the largest wildlife refuge on Earth for a penny of savings at the pump 15 years down the road? LCV doesn't think so. We have teamed with pro-environment members of Congress to fight off persistent efforts to open this incomparable landscape for drilling. A recent proposal by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to allow “directional drilling” in the Refuge was defeated in committee, but other attempts are in the works.
Efforts are being made to protect the Refuge as well. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) have introduced bills in the 111th Congress that would designate the coastal plain as a wilderness, protecting it from drilling. LCV urges members of Congress to support the preservation of Alaska's remaining wild places for future generations by co-sponsoring H.R. 39 and S. 231.