Resistance to the scientific consensus of the existence of climate change is waning ~ politicized prescriptions for inaction and for the relaxation of public environmental laws takes its place.
Last week, federal and state wildlife and public land managers gathered to talk about global warming and the effects it will have on western land and wildlife management. The overwhelming theme, as conveyed to me by several in attendance and passed along by Rocky Barker in the Statesman was dismal. Federal and state managers are preparing to give up on many species in the west.
Warming world prompts change – Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman
Related Update: Anti-science conservatives must be stopped – Salon.com
The article and land managers’ presentations indicate an attempt is being made to slide back, to give up on environmental laws in response to climate change rather than recognize the need for urgent enforcement to protect what we can. This is the wrong direction, and just as with the listing of polar bears, this sudden willingness to allow open comment from land and wildlife managers, comment that was muzzled by this administration before, is tempered by the politically guarded message conservationists are hearing from them (at least one manager in attendance in Boise mentioned that they were told to defer questions about particular land uses up the chain of command) – a message contrary to the the public environmental interest at a time when critical regard for existing law ought be fervently sought and resolutely applied.
I’m not buying what they’re selling.
One thing is clear – state and federal managers are preparing themselves and attempting to prepare the public to give up on many members of wildlife communities dependent on our public lands ~ giving up on our wildlife and the laws in place to preserve and protect them. What is all too obvious is that these same managers and politicians are not willing to give an inch on the land uses overwhelmingly responsible for these species’ imperiled status in the first place. Not willing to give an inch on the industrial exploitation of resources – that if reduced or removed – might give these otherwise abandoned members of our natural community a chance at life into the future.
The reason: EITHER the reality of global warming with the laws now in place, properly enforced, will mean significant reductions of unsustainable land uses that disproportionately favor a few private interests – reductions necessary to comply with the existing or strengthened law – OR, as the article suggests and implicitly promotes, the significant weakening of the existing law will be necessary to bypass the consequences of the last decade of inaction – with the diversity of our natural communities being literally written-off.
I choose wildlife.
Who will decide which species live or die ? If we buy this hype and relax current environmental standards ~ it won’t be our children.
The message is clear – wildlife are being given the short end of the stick. Industrial use maintains priority. We will not read an article on the front page of the Idaho Statesman critically questioning the viability of industrial logging or livestock grazing on our public lands in the context of a warming west – nor hear it from land managers grappling for job security on the cusp of reprieve from the political muzzle in the next 6 months. Instead, the paper is critical of our law’s ability to protect every last species – and if we can’t protect every last member of our living community, we are led to believe we ought consider revoking or reducing those laws and regulations aiming to do so rather than making any attempt at reinforcing ~ or just enforcing them to begin with. Who will suggest we give up on public lands livestock grazing – a use of public lands that contributes to the loss of species at a rate close to logging and mining combined ? This is backward – the conversation is fixed.
The ‘agility’ promoted and employed by agencies for decades, as suggested in Barker’s article, has not worked and has instead been used to avoid confronting the blaring consequences of land uses that enjoy industries’ political support. “Adaptive management” is one such example used at a landscape level – a management regime that sounds nice and has plenty of lofty promises, but that ends up amounting to the avoidance of stringent compliance criteria, opting instead for subjectively vague goals. Managers document the degraded conditions and either “adapt” to degrading conditions by employing menial changes that grant another half-decade of inaction, or don’t adapt – because they haven’t been monitoring the condition of the landscape in the first place – so there’s no actionable baseline. That’s how bureaucracy absent oversight and stringent/specific compliance criteria works (or doesn’t work) and has (not) been working. Now, they’re looking to for the ‘agility’ to do the same on a more grand scale – your entire western public landscape.
Your Western public lands and our wildlife communities deserves stringent compliance criteria for protection.
The urgency given the now universally accepted existence of climate change ought make that clear.
This resistance to the blaring lessons of our changing climate is no different than Big Oil’s drumbeat suggesting that drilling more will alleviate the consequences of our hyper-dependence/addiction to fossil fuel. It is a politicized prescription for inaction – for more of the same – and now there’s the push to prepare the public for the natural consequences of such – extinct species, wildlife and plants that your children will never get to see nor experience.
We may not be able to save each species in the West – but when we work to protect one by mitigating/regulating the deleterious effects of land uses – that work benefits each species of wildlife within the range of that one’s community. Wolf advocates, sage grouse advocates, spotted owl advocates, desert tortoise advocates, bison advocates, systems advocates etc. etc. etc. become a powerful community of wildlife advocates that collectively mitigate the impacts of unwise use and mismanagement on the value that all of our wildlife communities throughout the West express and need to survive. When we use NEPA to question the prudence of an agency’s decision to rubber-stamp wind farms smack-dab in the middle of pristine, but imperiled, sage grouse or pygmy rabbit habitat ~ when there is plenty of private land for them nearby already degraded beyond restoration, or when a community rejects the nuclear radioactive waste inevitable in nuclear energy production, or decries the consequences to salmon populations of dam after dam ~ the public ensures future generations’ environmental interest – and the important idea that it is not wise to weaken public oversight of politicized land-use agencies.
Collectively – public land and wildlife activists have been forewarning the consequences of over and unwise use of natural resources to Western ecosystems for decades – now they say they need to streamline many of those same advocates – who have been doing the work while industry-represented government has been holding to inaction – out of the process. It’s wrong and it won’t work.
Change is indeed needed – better enforcement and more robust laws/regulation protecting our public lands and members of our natural wildlife communities in the West – not less.