The Return of the Bully Pulpit — Obama´s Conservation Initiative

David Cassuto

Children in the United States spend about half as much time outside as their parents did.  Between 1995 – 2020, more land will be converted to housing in the Chesapeake Bay area than in the previous three and a half centuries.  Theodore Roosevelt is one of Barack Obama´s favorite presidents.  And President Obama will likely never shoot a bear.

This is some of the takeway from the launch of the president´s new conservation initiative — an admirable effort to cobble together a coalition of the willing to do something other than bomb other nations.  The idea is to bring federal and  state governments and the private sector together to encourage outdoor recreation, connect wildlife migration corridors and facilitate the sustainable use of private land.  In a time of little available $$ and dwindling public will, this seems like a useful way to refocus the national gaze on the natural world.  Particularly strategic (and true) is the argument that conservation initiatives create rather than cost jobs.    

The Obama Administration — which got off to a shaky start on the environmental front with the appointments of Ken Salazar to Interior and Tom Vilsack to Agriculture, as well as with highly problematic positions on the grey wolf and nuclear power and wild horses— seems to have found its stride.  President Obama was very impressive in Copenhagen even as he struggles with a largely indifferent Congress at home.

Other than Salazar and Vilsack, his appointments have been generally very good.  And even the aforementioned two will help spearhead this conservation initiative, along with the noteworthy CEQ Chair, Nancy Sutley and the much to be praised head of EPA, Lisa Jackson.   His State of the Union Address put the issue of climate change squarely in front of the American people, for better or for worse.

This initiative will not fix everything (indeed, it may not fix anything) but it aims to do good and there´s the off chance that it might succeed.  Maybe it´s because it´s Friday and/or because I´m in Brazil, but I feel a little more hopeful today than I did before.

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