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Wilderness in America Under Attack (Still)

One of PaddlingLight’s missions is to increase awareness about wilderness in a way to try and increase wilderness protection. One way that PLight does this is by calling attention to attacks on America’s laws that govern Wilderness Areas and National Parks. These attacks on American wilderness hurt all Americans by making it so there is less space protected for the enjoyment of all Americans instead of just the few. I wrote about the problem of extremists before the 2012 elections and how they want to take away our wilderness.

The extremist attack on U.S. National Parks and Wilderness Areas continues in the U.S. House of Representatives as they move to pass a “No New National Park” bill. The bill overturns parts of the Antiquities Act of 1906 that Presidents of both parties have used to protect iconic American wilderness such as Grand Canyon and Arches National Park. It was recently used to protect a scenic portion of the California coast from development. The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast protected 1,660 acres of beach, bluffs, and the Garcia River estuary — a perfect place for paddling!

A November, 2013, survey commissioned by the Center for American Progress found that:

By a margin of more than three-to-one, voters believe that leaders in Washington should be creating new parks and expanding opportunities for Americans to get outdoors, instead of closing national parks and cutting budgets for public lands. (1)

These types of attacks on the National Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness areas are in conflict with the core American values. The principles behind those values have guided America through the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century into the 21st century in a belief that parts of America are so beautiful that they must be protected for the enjoyment of all future generations of Americans. In Ken Burn’s six-part must see documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Burns describes the basic premise of the American National Park system:

America’s national parks are a treasure house of nature’s superlatives – 84 million acres of the most stunning landscapes anyone has ever seen. They became the last refuge for magnificent species of animals that otherwise would have vanished forever; today, they remain a refuge for human beings seeking to replenish their spirit.

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The national parks embody a radical idea, as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence, born in the United States nearly a century after its creation. It is a truly democratic idea, that the magnificent natural wonders of the land should be available not to a privileged few, but to everyone.

The idea has been constantly debated, constantly tested and is constantly evolving, ultimately embracing places that also preserve the nation’s first principles, its highest aspirations, its greatest sacrifices – even reminders of its most shameful mistakes. Most of all, the story of the national parks is the story of people from every conceivable background who were willing to devote themselves to saving a portion of the land they loved. (via PBS)

President Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican (the party which these extremists have taken over), said:

There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.

The only way to keep our wilderness and national parks is eternal vigilance against the forces that seek to exploit and develop our lands. Kayakers and Canoeist must vote them out this year!!!! If you live in a district represented by a Tea Partier or far right-winger, I urge to to protect the places we love to paddle in by voting against them. Let’s send this message and make it so both parties understand that these areas MUST be protected.

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