My last post highlighted two pieces of legislation currently stuck in Congressional committees that could improve conditions in California's deserts. I previously assessed that the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) was unlikely to see a full vote before the Senate and House before the end of the legislative calendar in November. However, I just read analysis by Politico--a publication that closely follows trends on the Hill--that suggests a Republican turnover in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee could severely limit opportunities to protect western wilderness over the next few years.
Unfortunately, one of the misguided themes in recent political activism is that concern for the environment and protecting open space is synonymous with "big government" and "socialism". The political figures that oppose environmental protections ironically boast of their patriotism and faith in God as reasons to allow private interests free reign over public land. These figures also want to withdraw any form of government regulation over wilderness and public land, returning to the "tragedy of the commons" that ultimately harms commerce and natural resources over time. It's ironic that these "patriots" want America's open space to resemble the ravaged and depleted lands that members of our Armed Forces witness in places like Afghanistan or Haiti, where over-logging, poaching, and pollution leave these countries with few places to be proud of.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ultimately holds the power to edit, withhold or eliminate any legislation that protects or enhances America' wilderness and environment. According to Politico's analysis, the Committee likely will see the appointment of additional Republicans from Western states next year that would be opposed to the designation of wilderness areas, and favor additional energy development on public land (although potentially more oil, gas and coal development instead of renewable energy).
Progress in preserving America's natural wealth in the Mojave Desert and other Western lands will become more difficult, even though the need to employ more sensible land management has more merit now than ever. If you want to remind your representatives that we need to protect our open space, you can e-mail or write to Senator Dianne Feinstein (who proposed CDPA 2010, S.2921), members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and other key members of Congress below:
Senator Feinstein: contact form on website
Senator Bingaman, current Chairman of the Committee: email@example.com
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): contact form on website
Other Committee Membership: listed on Committee website
Senator Harry Reid: contact form on website
Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA): contact form on website