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OPINION: Climate Crisis 2020

Support Candidates Who Are Fighting For Wild Places

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren was in Denver campaigning last month and was greeted by 1,500 supporters at Aurora’s Stanley Market. 

Warren voiced her support of many topics, including free access to National Parks and protection of public lands. 

“Bruce and I love to hike,” she said, a reference to her husband. “We’ve been all over, from Bryce Canyon in Utah to Alaska to the Cape Cod National Seashore in our backyard. America’s public lands are one of our greatest treasures. They provide us with clean air and water, sustain our fish and wildlife, and offer a place where millions of Americans go every year to experience the beauty of our natural environment. 

“At 25 percent of America’s total land, they are also an irreplaceable resource,” Warren continued. “But today, those lands are under threat. The Trump administration is busy selling off our public lands to the oil, gas and coal industries for pennies on the dollar — expanding fossil fuel extraction that destroys pristine sites across the country while pouring an accelerant on our climate crisis.”

In 2017, President Trump reduced U.S. public lands by opening Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah for oil and gas drilling. Bears Ears was reduced by 80 percent, a loss of 1.1 million acres, and Grand Escalante by 45 percent. Both areas were listed as national monuments under President Barack Obama. 

National Parks are created through Congress, while National Monuments, are designated by U.S. presidents, through the Antiquities Act. 

When President Trump reduced the size of these two monuments it was seen as one of the largest attacks on public lands in our history. Companies such as Patagonia and REI spoke out against this takeaway of public lands. REI’s response: “This is the largest rollback of protected lands in American History and the decision also undermines the integrity of the Antiquities Act, which 16 presidents from both parties have used to designate and protect national monuments over the last 111 years.” 

Patagonia’s message appeared on its website with a powerful black background and white lettering. It was five words long: “The President Stole Your Land.”

It is important to note that Trump, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and George Bush have no designations of national monuments. Theodore Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have the largest designations.

In addition to free access to national parks, Warren wants a moratorium on new oil drilling. “There’s no better place than Colorado to discuss climate change and the environment,” she noted.

The Climate Reality Project released a document in 2017 noting that Colorado is getting warmer and is one of the fastest-warming states in the country. The report noted that we are seeing a shift of the timing of snowmelt and peak runoff, which has already shifted by one to four weeks in the spring. Colorado is experiencing prolonged drought and increased wildfires, while the Colorado River system continues to undergo stress – which will only worsen with increased population. 

Sen. Warren makes the connection to climate change by wanting to have our public lands as part of the climate solution. She says that “any serious effort to address climate change must include public lands –  fossil fuel extraction in these areas is responsible for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” 

It is important to note that our own U.S. Representative, Diana DeGette, has been fighting to protect public lands in Colorado for decades. Last year the Denver Democrat introduced the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2018, which she has introduced in every congress since 1999. 

DeGette notes that Colorado needs a comprehensive vision for protecting our state’s last remaining wild places. She has spent years working with stakeholders, including ranchers, mountain bikers, landowners and local elected officials on the language. Her bill would protect 33 areas totaling 740,000 acres. 

Last year when she reintroduced the bill she noted a sense of urgency due to the threats from the Trump Administration towards our public lands. Rep. DeGette has a long history in our state fighting for the environment and to protect our lands, and continues to do so. Let’s hope this is the year that we see her well-developed and thoughtful plan pass. 

It is expected that, headed into 2020, Colorado will be hosting a slew of presidential candidates. As Americans grow more concerned about climate change we have an opportunity to push all candidates on this vital issue and continue to drive home the point that we need political leaders who are willing to fight to protect our only home. 

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Active in the Registered Neighborhood Organization for many years, MacDermott was the 2012 recipient of the Dr. J. Carlton Babbs Award for Community Service. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign. 

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