Wilderness and Climate Tension in Nevada

If you listened to President Obama’s State of the Union Address you may have noticed that the President had some things to say about how this administration values public land:

[…] I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public lands to power 3 million homes.

For groups working to preserve the wild character and integrity of wildlife habitat on public lands, this statement might be troubling.

What’s equally as troubling is the tendency of some wild land and wildlife advocacy groups to play along, in effect greenwashing impending energy development on public land on behalf of some nebulous suggestion that we need to destroy the wild character and habitat of the lands these same groups might have worked to preserve a decade ago in order to build power plants and transmission lines that somehow save the atmosphere.

Chris Clarke writes a compelling essay concerning just this controversy as it hits the ground in Nevada.

Shame on you, Nevada Wilderness ProjectCoyote Crossing

Wilderness groups working on climate issues point out that if we don’t do something about climate change, there will be no wilderness areas left—or at least, the damages to the biological systems in said wilderness areas will be irrevocably and dramatically changed.

This is undeniably a valid argument. It is an argument that would be every bit as valid for groups working to support women’s crisis centers, community gardens, public broadcasting, and food banks: each of them works to achieve goals that will be utterly undermined by catastrophic climate change. Somehow out of all these groups it’s only the wilderness organizations that have rewritten their charters.



  1. Salle Avatar

    You know, that is exactly what popped out screaming at me when I heard the pres say that.

    It appears that there are these groups who will argue for a certain cause but only to a point, and after that point some sort of “plan B” rationale takes over and they will run in the opposite direction in an instant. What drives a person to think they can re-enter a building engulfed in flames or swim through a flooding torrent to catch something in the water?

    The way I see it is that there seems to be some equivocation within the development oriented industries’ rationale which leaves many with a sense that what it takes to preserve a livable biosphere will require something from us but in an either/or kind of trade off. They need to recognize that it’s too late for doing one thing in lieu of another, perhaps less popular method, in order to maintain the perception that they are doing something constructive and positive with regard to the environment. We have to do all of the recommended things now, not just some of them. Tearing up the public lands to build power generation stations and dig up minerals instead of finding and funding point-source generation and educating the general public of the real consequences of not doing everything. This would include changing their lifestyles and adjusting their value systems to reflect the new and species endangering – and I mean the human species here – reality that we all face at this point in our history… Do we want this to be the last chapter? We need to make up our minds about that now and get going on what we will do about it right away.

  2. Salle Avatar

    Interesting opinion piece from the Cristian Science Monitor on the speech and the part about natural gas:


  3. Salle Avatar

    UM-based research unit gets grant to study wolf mortality


    “Researchers anticipate finding differences in the composition and stability of wolf packs in each area, and Ausband expects to find the most stable packs in Yellowstone.

    “In Idaho and Montana, wolves have gone from endangered species to a hunted game animal pretty much overnight, and understanding how death will affect pack stability is pretty important,” he said.

    Over the past five years, Ausband has found new techniques for tracking wolves. Tracking wolves with collars is expensive, and now that that the states have assumed management responsibilities, there are fewer federal dollars to pay for tracking, he said.

    Instead, Ausband has found ways to track wolves using DNA samples taken from wolf scat and hair. Field researchers make “rub stations” by pouring a smelly, sticky substance on the ground. That draws wolves, which leave hair samples as they move about in the rub, Ausband said.”

    Nice! Congrats, Dave, et al! I like the way these techniques that has been developed by this team are now being integrated into the study regime.

    1. Salle Avatar

      OOopsss…techniques that have been developed by this team…

  4. mad Avatar

    Ausband is doing good work, but the article erroneously attributes him & his team with developing or finding new ways to track & study animals. This is absolutely false. Rub stations have been used for decades to obtain hair samples and DNA scat analysis (usually found by trained dogs) has been performed since the early to mid 90’s.

    My wife & I trained our Dutch Shepherd to find polar bear scat for one study (her PhD) and coyote scat for another. That was 10 yrs ago.

  5. Mike Avatar

    I don’t think Obama knows what wilderness is, let alone what public land is.

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Brian Ertz