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Monumental Progress Against Climate Disruption

ObamaMonumentsSigningSierra Club members and supporters have had plenty to celebrate this week. When President Obama used his pen to designate five diverse sites across the country as national monuments, we applauded him and we welcomed the economic and recreational benefits, as well as the cultural preservation, that these sites will bring.

We’ll continue to celebrate the revenue that new national monuments will bring to local economies, the cultural and historical landmarks they will protect, and the opportunities for travel and exploration they will provide for bird watchers, kayakers, climbers, and other adventurers. But designating national monuments will have a much longer lasting effect -- one that goes beyond a fleeting adventure down a river or trip to visit to a historic site -- it will help reverse the disruption of our climate.

By expanding our nation’s fleet of national monuments to include more large landscapes, the president is making great strides in establishing his lasting climate legacy. America's public lands are increasingly under threat from oil and gas drilling, coal mining, and the effects of a changing climate. The same dirty fuels being extracted from our public lands are exacerbating climate disruption at a pace that is too fast for our landscape and wildlife to adapt.

There is a rush for dirty fuels in the West, and places like the Greater Canyonlands in Utah, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, and even the Grand Canyon Watershed in Arizona are being eyed for exploitation that would leave them unrecognizable to those who have ventured there for centuries. These landscapes -- as well as other threatened landscapes from the Arctic to the Everglades -- symbolize our national identity, provide recreation and relaxation, and are home to our nation’s greatest biodiversity. Dirty fossil fuels underneath our most precious public lands should be kept where they belong -- in the ground.

Island In The SkyAbove: Greater Canyonlands, Utah (Photo: Jeff Clay/Clayhaus Photography)
Below: (Photo: Larry Allen)

Photoby LarryAllenThe wildlife that inhabits these areas are already showing signs that climate disruption is too much for them. A recent study from the National Wildlife Federation indicates that as our planet warms, some wildlife face severe challenges. Migration patterns are being dramatically disrupted, and species like the polar bear and walrus are struggling to survive as their habitat disappears. Climate disruption will drive wildlife away forever from some public lands, unless the natural spaces are preserved for thriving ecosystems.

Sadly, as my colleague Matt Kirby highlighted this week, Congress is proving too dysfunctional to fulfill their responsibility to protect our iconic public lands and prevent climate catastrophe. But thankfully, President obama is getting the job done. This week when he exercised his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate new national monuments, his administration shifted momentum towards protecting our public lands from the climate crisis.

There is still much work to be done to ensure our most precious landscapes don’t fall prey to dirty fossil fuel exploitation. It will take the continued efforts of our members, supports, and local communities to ensure our landscapes are stable and that animals aren’t forced to flee their habitats in desperate search for food and water.

This week, please thank President Obama for standing up for our unique landscapes and for the climate. We urge him to ride this momentum and designate more lands -- for the benefit of generations to come.

--Drew Ball, Senior Representative, Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign

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