Climate change moves Interior Department to action


By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The U.S. Department of Interior (hereinafter sometimes referred to as “Interior”) is back in the news. The parent agency of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and others, Interior says it’s time to take action on climate change. An agency press release says that climate change “pose[es] an imminent threat to our daily lives, critical wildlife habitats and future generations. Urban, rural and Tribal communities are economically burdened by storms, wildfires, droughts and floods.”

A return to Roosevelt?

Under the battle cry of “Bold Action,” the land management agency says it will quickly roll out actions to help in the fight. But what might you expect to see? While some changes are seeming “no-brainers,” others may turn a few heads.

On the list, a new version of the CCC. No, this isn’t a group of campground building teenagers as in the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Rather, this CCC stands for Civilian Climate Corps. Their work will take these hires to the out-of-doors. As a result, they will work conserving and restoring public lands and waters and addressing climate change. Just how the specifics will play out is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, many Americans have been calling for a new vision of the old plan.

Energy and land management

Other parts of the new working orders on climate change include a few changes on energy and land management. In the past, emphasis in some agencies – particularly the Bureau of Land Management – focused on managing non-renewable energy sources. In particular, oil and gas were at the center. However, Interior now says it’s already identifying steps to accelerate responsible development of renewable energy on public lands and waters.

Included in this new relationship, the department has begun reviewing the existing federal oil and gas program. Consequently, the eye is to measure “that it serves the public interest and restores balance on America’s public lands and waters.”

Reviewing national monuments

While not directly “energy” related, the Interior Department has also been tasked to look at the land itself. Its marching orders from the White House include: “Developing approaches to conserve at least 30% each of our lands and waters by the year 2030.” They are looking at some national monuments which were pared down in size by the last administration. These include Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, “to determine whether restoration of the boundaries and conditions would be appropriate.”

How will each individual agency under Interior be involved in these changes on climate change? That isn’t clear yet. Similarly, we don’t know how the new plan will change recreational access to the country’s public lands. We’ll keep you posted as we find out.

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