Shhhhh. Can you hear it? I can too. It's the sound of silence.
Little was spoken about the environment by either presidential candidate in a campaign dominated by the economy. No real debate on issues including: climate change, which is already impacting our wildlife and natural ecosystems we all rely on for survival; the accelerating threat of species extinction; or the importance of science in public decision-making.
While I congratulate the president for winning a second term in office, I urge that his priorities going forward include a strong focus on these issues, which are of great importance and consequence to people and wildlife.
First things first: we need to see President Obama, with the support of Congress, step up to find a balanced way to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. Many critical conservation programs for wildlife and public lands will be severely damaged by the looming spending cuts. Everything from national parks and forests to wildlife refuges and other public lands will be threatened with sweeping closures if the looming end-of-the-year budget cuts are allowed to happen. And we're not just talking about the ability to hike, hunt, fish or camp on these lands. We're talking about vital programs like fire prevention, law enforcement, the protection of endangered wildlife and migratory waterfowl and landscapes that provide us with intact watersheds and clean water supplies and the trees that purify the air we breathe.
Once this crisis is averted, it's time to look long term.
I hope the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy is a wakeup call to the president and Congress that we need to put partisan politics aside and put climate change on the top of the to do list. This is one of the most pressing issues for people, wildlife and our natural resources and we cannot wait any longer. We need swift action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and new policies that will help humans and wildlife adapt to our changing world.
Second, we need to seriously address the threat of wildlife extinction. The Endangered Species Act has served for decades as a model for a world struggling with widespread extinction; too often now it suffers from inadequate enforcement, a hostile political environment and chronic underfunding. Our wildlife refuge system, also of vital importance to saving endangered species, was once the envy of the world; has now fallen into disrepair due to inadequate funding. These things have to change before we lose too many species and too much habitat to neglect. Most importantly, while the ESA has proven to be a highly effective bulwark against extinction, we need the administration to accelerate the recovery of hundreds of species that are in urgent need of more focused attention.
Third, the president should do more to ensure that science comes before politics. During the first term, certain conservation decisions, such as the delisting of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and those involving oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, emphasized politics over science. I fervently hope this practice will not be the case in his second term.
Lastly, the president should continue his vitally important push to wean our country off out-dated, dirty energy sources like oil, gas and coal and focus on 21st century clean, renewable energy solutions. But his administration should be smart from the start and only move forward in ways that don't conflict with important wildlife or habitat resources.
There is so much work to be done to protect and restore our air, land, water and wildlife for future generations. The president has run his last campaign and it is my hope that, freed from the bonds of politics, he will be a more aggressive partner as we strive to protect our natural heritage. Indeed, there is no more lasting legacy than an America rich with natural splendor and wildlife. So let's end the silence and make some noise for the environment!
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