Why Has the Republican Party Abandoned Conservation as a Core Value?
If you've seen Lincoln, then you know that a) Daniel Day-Lewis is an Oscar frontrunner and b) Republicans are capable of doing great things. In the film, of course (spoiler alert), they pass the 13th Amendment and end slavery. And just a few years later, the character played by David Strathairn (Secretary of State William Seward), saved the entire state of Alaska (from Russia) by picking it up for 2 cents an acre. Another famous Republican in the film, Ulysses S. Grant, later signed the act that created our first U.S. national park (Yellowstone).
In the 20th century, of course, Republican overachiever Theodore Roosevelt designated five national parks, eight national monuments and 150 national forests (when he wasn't camping-out with the founder of the Sierra Club). Even just 48 years ago, enough conservation-minded Republicans were left in the House to pass the Wilderness Act almost unanimously (in the Senate, it squeaked by 73-12).
How times have changed. The current Congress has demonstrated unrivaled proficiency at accomplishing nothing—and it has "un-succeeded" most spectacularly when it comes to protecting public lands. If things don't change, this could be the first time since 1966 that Congress has adjourned without protecting a single acre of wilderness.
The problem isn't that none of today's Republicans care about wilderness. Many do. Unfortunately, the radical fringe leadership of their party flat-out refuses to support wilderness legislation—even bills sponsored by fellow Republicans—unless their purpose is to open up wilderness to mining and drilling.
Here are five examples of Republican-sponsored wilderness bills that are getting more love from the Sierra Club than from fellow congressional Republicans:
- HR 608 Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. With its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan region, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area is one of the most popular wilderness areas in the country. This legislation would add more than 22,000 acres to the existing area and protect areas beloved by many and vital habitat for trout.
- HR 977 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act. Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, this is a popular spot for hunters, anglers and boaters. This legislation would protect more than 32,000 acres or nearly half of the entire unit.
- HR 41 Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act. Would protect more than 21,000 acres as wilderness north of San Diego County. The area is full of deep canyons, rugged rock formations and popular with hunters, hikers and backpackers.
- HR 163 Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. Would protect as wilderness part of the largest unprotected roadless areas in the lower 48—330,000 acres.
- S 1090 Tennessee Wilderness Act. Would protect nearly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and would be the first wilderness designated in the state in 25 years.
That's just a sampling of the dozens of bipartisan wilderness bills authored by both Republicans and Democrats that are pending before this Congress. Most of them have strong local support because people know that protecting these lands will help build local economies, protect valuable open space and preserve wonderful recreation opportunities for future generations.
Republican obstructionism isn't good for the planet and, after the last election, it’s clear it isn't even good for the Republican party. Here's a chance to reclaim what once was a popular core value of the Republican Party—conservation—and, at the same time, actually accomplish something.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY pages for more related news on this topic.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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