Great news! Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging her department to designate new wilderness study areas as part of the Biden administration’s goal of protecting 30 percent of public lands and waters by 2030. That crucial goal simply isn’t possible without the robust participation of the Department of the Interior, which is the nation’s largest land manager. And with the climate and extinction crises wreaking havoc on our world, the time to act is now.
Joining Sen. Durbin on the letter were six other senators: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
“Our remote lands are overlooked sometimes in conversations about addressing the climate crisis, but their contributions will be crucial. Public lands not only support complex ecosystems, but also can sequester carbon and make areas more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” the senators wrote in their letter.
“More than 29 million acres of public lands are in need of protection. For years, DOI has not utilized its ability to protect these lands, leaving places like the Vermillion Basin in Colorado, Granite Range in Nevada, the Bodie Hills in California, Hatch Canyon in Utah, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, and the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon without proper protection for their unique resources. Without proper protections, these lands face many threats that could jeopardize wilderness-quality values the Bureau of Land Management stated these lands have.”
As the senators rightly point out, protecting public lands is one of the key ways we can help mitigate the climate crisis. We are extremely grateful to them for connecting the dots, and for reaching out to the Interior Department with solutions.