Summer doesn’t get much better than this. Yesterday, I heard from Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton that we scored three major victories for the protection of America’s wild legacy. For starters, the Obama administration announced it will protect 170,000 acres of critical habitat in buffer zones south of Teshekpuk Lake in the western Arctic from oil and gas leasing. This has been a major goal of our Arctic campaign for over ten years! Teshekpuk Lake is the biological center of the western Arctic.
In Montana, Federal Judge Donald Molloy found that critical habitat areas in Colorado, Idaho, and Montana had been arbitrarily omitted from protection by the Fish and Wildlife Service during the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration. Molloy ordered the agency to correct the mistake and restore protection to areas vital to recovery of the lynx population. In making his ruling, Molloy pointed out that the FWS committed one of the most egregious errors taught in basic logic. It asserted that since areas where breeding populations of lynxes have been identified must contain the necessary habitat features for lynx breeding, then areas where breeding populations have not been identified must therefore lack those qualities.
Finally, after a long struggle, the Club and its partner the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance reached an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah to ban oil and gas operations that would disrupt the roadless area surrounding Desolation Canyon on the Green River. The gas company holding the leases, Bill Barrett Corporation, agreed to dramatically change its development and drilling plans to protect the wilderness canyon.
As a changing climate and previous mismanagement puts more and more of our wildlife heritage at risk, these kinds of victories are increasingly important. Each one is a strong thread in a new tapestry of connected and therefore more-resilient habitat. Winning three like this in a single day is a real wilderness trifecta!