Energy & Environment

Interior secretary calls for ‘major course correction’ on conservation

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called Tuesday for major changes in how the country handles conservation in an effort to modernize efforts to protect public land.

In a major speech in Washington to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service, Jewell said federal lands — parks, wildlife refuges, forests, grazing areas and more — are facing numerous threats that are natural, manmade and political.

{mosads}“If we stay on this trajectory, 100 years from now, national parks and wildlife refuges will be like postage stamps of nature on a map, isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation’s remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land,” Jewell said.

“That can’t and won’t happen. But as a country, we need to make a major course correction in how we approach conservation to ensure a bright future for our public lands and waters.”

Jewell’s speech follows a violent wildlife refuge occupation in Oregon that ended in February. It also comes amid congressional threats to public land, including the House’s Puerto Rico bankruptcy bill, which allows for the sale of a wildlife refuge in the territory.

She said that there is an “emergence of an extreme movement to seize public lands, from Oregon to Puerto Rico, putting lands that belong to all Americans at risk of being sold off for a short-term gain to the highest bidder.”

“This movement has propped up dangerous voices that reject the rule of law, put communities and hard-working public servants at risk and fail to appreciate how deeply democratic and American our national parks and public lands are.”

Jewell identified a multi-point plan to reinvigorate public lands.

It includes reaching out to diverse new audiences, like minorities and millennials, to get them into parks and refuges.

She also wants better holistic planning around the wildlife and ecological needs of wild lands.

Jewell called for new funding from Congress for public lands and parks, including fully funding the Land and Water Conservation fund to $900 million every year.

Interior is now working with the Commerce Department’s Bureau Economic Analysis to quantify the economic impacts from public lands, like recreation and related activities, to better identify the value of the lands.

But Jewell was overall optimistic about the next century of land management.

“At a time that they face threats from land grabs to climate change, we can’t turn our backs on them,” she said. “That won’t happen. Because I believe we are at the dawn of a new conservation era in America. Americans are more determined than ever to solve the problems we face, to take action to fight climate change, to pass ballot initiatives to fund parks and open space, to work the lands in a sustainable way, to give everyone an equal chance to get outdoors.”

Tags Interior Department national parks Public land Sally Jewell
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