Finally, some good news on the environment

As I have said repeatedly, the US national parks are a genuine treasure, meant for everyone to enjoy. But in recent years the Republicans have been pushing for more mining and exploratory activities to be allowed on them. The last government shutdown that resulted in irresponsible visitors to the parks causing needless damage because of the absence of park rangers was also infuriating. They even cut down ancient trees in the Joshua Tree park and vandalized the desert.

A post by National Parks Traveler details the extent of the damage the park has sustained during the past several weeks. Beyond the overflow of human waste and garbage, visitors have also cut down Joshua trees, left graffiti, and gone off-roading through “pristine desert,” according to park superintendent David Smith.

In some cases, Joshua trees were reportedly cut down so off-roaders could get around barriers. The spiky-leaved Joshua tree, or Yucca brevifolia, is found in the southern California national park that bears its name, as well as other parts of the American southwest.

“We have two new roads that were created inside the park. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds. We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping,” Smith told the nonprofit news organization.

“They would just go out into the country, and then once 20 or 30 cars would go over it you would essentially have a new road created in pristine desert,” Smith explained.

What is the matter with these people, that they have such a lack of basic civic sense?

So I was both surprised and pleased by the fact that the US Senate voted overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan manner to expand the acreage that is covered by the parks.

Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks are to be enlarged, and stunning river landscapes in California and Utah will be protected, under new legislation that passed the US Senate on Tuesday.

In all the public lands package sets aside more than a million acres of new wilderness and conservation areas in western states.

The Natural Resources Management Act passed 92-8 in the Republican-controlled Senate, a notable bipartisan effort in an administration marked by conservation rollbacks. Since Donald Trump took office, his administration has shrunk national monuments and put large swaths of land up for oil, gas and mining leases, including on the doorsteps of national monuments, parks and wilderness areas. The bill will go to the Democrat-controlled House next, where it’s likely to pass, and then to the president’s desk.

The link to the news report goes into detail about the kinds of land that will be covered by this law and has some stunningly beautiful photographs of the vistas.

As the news report says, the bill is likely to pass the House of Representatives. In normal times, the president would sign this bill into law. But we have a toddler as president and depending on what he sees on television or to whom he speaks just before the bill lands on his desk and if they tell him his base does not like it, or if he is simply irritated because his indoor golf room is out of order, he may well decide to veto it. These are the times we live in.

The one jarring note in the report came right at the end.

“Those lands that were protected today belong to every single American,” said Land Tawney, the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers president and CEO. “This vote signifies that we still care about public lands. We are carrying out the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, and that is uniquely American.”

Why must everything that is good be viewed in such a chauvinistic way by describing it as “uniquely American”? Is the speaker not aware that many countries around the world, even developing countries with far less resources than the US, set aside large areas of land as national parks to protect the environment and wildlife? Are these people so insecure that they cannot accept that the US is not unique when it comes to every single positive feature?


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