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by Chris Yoder | 2008

As an American, you are the partial owner of a vast legacy of lands of incredible beauty and the repository of untold wealth. As owners of the land, Americans have an all-too-often ignored responsibility of stewardship for the lands entrusted to us. Protection of these priceless lands was one goal for John Muir and the other visionaries who founded the Sierra Club in 1892. You, as a member of the Club, are an heir to their vision.

As an American, you are the partial owner of a vast legacy of lands of incredible beauty and the repository of untold wealth.  These public lands include:

  • 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands;
  • 262 million acres administered by the Federal Bureau of Land Management;
  •  More than 390 national parks, battlefields, seashores, monuments and historic sites in the National Park Service system;
  • 100 million acres of wildlife refuges and other sites controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and
  • More than 300 recreation areas on water projects administered by the Bureau of Reclamation.

 

These lands offer us, and our descendants, an irreplaceable legacy of natural values.   However, these lands also contain irresistible lures for those who would exploit their resources.  The natural values of your public lands are constantly eroded by the pressures of excessive logging, overgrazing, irresponsible mining and rampant off-road-vehicle users.  As owners of the land, Americans have an all-too-often ignored responsibility of stewardship for the lands entrusted to us.  Protection of these priceless lands was one goal for John Muir and the other visionaries who founded the Sierra Club in 1892.  You, as a member of the Club, are an heir to their vision.

As a practical matter, management of your public lands falls to federal agencies overseen by the U.S. Congress and acting in accordance with legislation enacted by the Congress.  Sierra Club members can protect our nation’s natural legacy by ensuring that our representatives know that we, as their constituents, support legislation to protect public lands and that we demand strong oversight over the agencies entrusted with their stewardship.

Action Steps

You can help preserve these national treasures by doing one or all of the following.

Join the Maryland Chapter’s public lands protection team.  Contact Chris Yoder, team chair, at 410-466-2462 or at  cncyoder@comcast.net to get on the e-mail list (or snail mail if you don’t have e-mail) of public lands defenders.  We will let you know when legislation needs the support of our delegation or when land-management agencies need congressional pressure to stand strong in protecting the land rather bowing to pressure from commercial or motorized recreational interests.

Act now to support pending legislation.  The following bills are moving now, or may move soon, in the House of Representatives.  Your congressional representatives need to hear that you support these bills.

 

HR 3287: The Tumacacori HIghlands Wilderness Act.  HR 3287 would designate 85,000 acres of spectacularly eroded cliffs and hills that host over 50 sensitive species and act as a refuge for endangered species such as the jaguar, peregrine falcon and Mexican spotted owl.

 

HR 2593: The Borderlands Conservation and Security Act. This bill is designed to help mitigate damage to federal and tribal lands from illegal border activity and border-enforcement efforts by increasing coordination between land management agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.

 

HR 3682: The California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act. With the help of this legislation, 125,000 acres would be designated as wild and scenic, and it also would create three new wilderness areas, which  are important to the future of locally endangered species such as bighorn sheep and desert tortoises.

 

HR 2334: Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness. HR 2334 would protect as wilderness areas a spectacular national park that might otherwise be overrun by excessive use.

 

HR1919: America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.  More than 9 million acres of Utah would be protected as wilderness under this bill.  These unique and fragile lands are threatened by off-road vehicles, mineral and energy exploration, and development.  The bill needs more cosponsors.  From Maryland, only Representatives Cummings, Van Hollen, and Wynn are cosponsors.  Please contact your representatives and ask them to join in cosponsoring this important legislation.

 

So far this session the House passed HR 1011, The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act of 2007.  The Senate companion bill is S. 570.  Please contact Senators Cardin and Mikulski and ask them to support these bills in the Senate.

You can contact your representatives through the Capitol switchboard at 202.225.3121 or by writing to them at: [insert name of representative]

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

You can contact your senators through the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 or by writing to them at:

[insert name of senator]

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510   

 

Chris Yoder is a long-time member of the Sierra Club, a member of the Maryland Chapter’s Executive Committee, and an advocate for protecting the natural values embodied in America’s public lands.

 

> 2008 Table of Contents

   
   

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