June 9, 2011

A voice for the wilderness

Bruce Babbitt, the former Democratic Arizona governor and Secretary of the Interior, plans to rip into the Republicans in Congress in a speech on Wednesday afternoon, saying that they have "declared war on our land, water and natural resources." But he also chides President Obama for not having done enough to stop them.
In a text of his remarks released in advance of a 1 p.m. speech, Mr. Babbitt, 73, an ardent conservationist, said he felt compelled to speak out to bring attention to the policies of the Republican majority in the House and to urge strong action to reverse them.
"I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history," said Mr. Babbitt, who served as Interior secretary for nearly eight years under former President Bill Clinton. "It is clear to me that the House of Representatives will not only block progress, but will continue to sustain an assault on our public lands and water. Therefore, it is imperative that President Obama take up the mantle of land and water conservation – something that he has not yet done in a significant way."
Mr. Babbitt cited several examples of actions taken by House Republicans this spring that threaten lands and wildlife, including removing the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List, terminating an ocean fisheries conservation program and reversing an action by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to identify millions of acres for potential wilderness designation.

He also noted legislation by Republican lawmakers in Montana, Idaho and Nevada to exempt their states from the federal Antiquities Act, a 100-year-old law that allows the president to designate areas as national monuments with permanent protection. And he criticized a bill introduced in the House and Senate to eliminate protections under the Wilderness Study Areas and National Forest Roadless Areas programs, potentially affecting more than 40 million acres of federal land.
"It is a pattern of a broad, sustained assault on nearly all our environmental laws," Mr. Babbitt says in his prepared remarks. "The intent is to chip away, a blow at a time, at the edifice of environmental laws and regulation, avoiding a frontal assault that would call attention to the overall objective."
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