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10 Important Decisions That Give Us a More Positive Environmental Outlook for 2017

by Shelby Huff Jan 6, 2017

With the incoming anti-environment cabinet, people are panicked. Well, most people are panicked. Our president-elect has instilled a fear that clean energy and any progress made on lessening climate change will take a big economic step backward. The fire is burning brighter than ever, and people are fighting for a cleaner and fairer future for us all. This is a reminder that good is still happening around us, but it’s also a reminder that we need to continue fighting hard for our air, water, and land in the upcoming, crucial year.

The Outdoor REC Bill

The Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 recognizes that the outdoor industry contributes significantly to the economy. The industry contributes $646 billion annually and provides 6.1 million direct jobs across the country, making it an economic powerhouse. And this act ensures that industry jobs and recreational economic impact count towards the gross domestic product (GDP). So when you bike, hike, paddle, fish, and support outdoor retailers, manufacturers, and services, the statistics will be measured in the same manner as other sectors, such as the automobile, apparel, and pharmaceutical industries, enabling policymakers to make more informed decisions based on the influence of the entire outdoor recreation industry.

Turning down the Dakota Pipeline

After months of controversies and protesting, the Army Corps of Engineers turned down a permit to continue the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protests were a largely covered event, causing us all to wonder about the state of Native American rights as well as fundamental human rights, not to mention the future of this country. What made the Army Corps’ announcement so incredible was that it was unexpected, and it is thanks to the hundreds of activists standing alongside the Native tribes who halted the pipeline. These individuals embraced negative temperatures with wind chills below -40, while living in tents and shelters made of largely donated supplies, surrounded by hay bales to protect the structures from wind. They were incredibly determined and brave to face the elements, the tear gas, and the chance of arrests for the sake of clean energy, clean water, and showing the power in peaceful organizing. It was a huge victory for Native Americans, if a temporary one.

Washington state suing Monsanto

Washington became the first ever state to sue Monsanto over the damage it has caused through PCB pollution in the land, salmon, orcas, and people. It’s a big deal because Monsanto has a monopolization on the agriculture in the United States. The company has spilled their GMO seeds purposefully on neighboring farmers’ lands and then sued them for growing the seeds without Monsanto’s consent. It’s a step in holding them accountable for the health effects their products have on all of us.

Snake River lower dams removal paves way

There’s a big push to remove large dams from the Snake River to aid salmon population and health. The Snake River, at just over 1000 miles, is the 13th longest in the United States, flowing from the western border of Wyoming to its confluence with the mighty Columbia River in Washington. Environmental groups say restoring the salmon runs is impossible with the four dams in place. Removing the dams would provide migrating salmon with easier access to thousands of miles of pristine rivers and streams that, even with climate change, remain cold enough to support salmon and steelhead spawning. The $15 billion dollars spent on recovery efforts have failed. There is now a unique opportunity to get it right and save wild salmon by removing four dams, and restoring a free-flowing Lower Snake River — some of the best salmon habitat remaining in the lower 48 today. The Elwha dam removal paved the way, setting an example that we have a chance to restore thousands of miles of pristine spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead.

Tongass National Forest plans to stop old-growth logging

The Obama administration issued a final amendment for the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the country and one of the largest intact coastal rainforests left on earth, to phase out cutting of old-growth timber and encourage only “new-growth” cutting in the future. The new plan for the Tongass is central to the fight over the future of logging in Alaska. The Tongass encompasses nearly 17 million acres and contains cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees, as well as brown bears, salmon, wolves, bald eagles and other wildlife.

Paradise Valley protected from mining

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced that US officials are blocking new mining claims in 30,000 acres north of Yellowstone, an area called Paradise Valley. It lies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest continuous public land area in the lower 48, totalling 22 million acres and protecting vital species and habitat. While this is just a short-term ban for 2 years, they are recommending considering a long-term ban. The two-year prohibition would not explicitly block the two pending mining proposals on private lands, but it could make large-scale mining more difficult if the projects were expanded onto public lands. Interior officials also cancelled 15 oil and gas leases in Montana.

Rich techies funding clean energy solutions

Several of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including Bill Gates, announced a new $1 billion investment fund that will go towards advancements in clean energy production. The goal is to pump money into risky, long-term energy technology that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement. The investments will likely go into areas such as electricity generation and storage, agriculture and transportation. Investors include Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Inc., Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group Ltd., Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., John Arnold, a billionaire natural gas trader, and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the founder of Kingdom Holding.

Obama creates two more national monuments

Obama signed in the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument and also created the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada this month, settling a yearslong debate over management. It was well known that he was considering it, but that didn’t make environmentalists and recreationists celebrate it any less. But here’s what sets it apart from other monuments — It will be co-managed by representatives of five tribes, making it a huge win for the Native community. Bears Ears contains an estimated 56,000 archaeological sites and until recently was the least protected culturally rich area in the States. The land is protected from development, for now.

Kids win right to sue over climate change.

In November, America’s children officially won the right to sue their government over global warming. A lawsuit filed by 21 youth plaintiffs was ruled valid by US District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon. The youth, aged 9 to 20, claimed that the Obama administration, the fossil fuel industry, and other federal agencies are in violation of their constitutional rights by not taking decisive action against climate change.

Obama bans drilling in Arctic

And as an early Christmas present to conservationists and anyone who cares about wildlife, water, the planet, or the quality of human life, Obama banned all future drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic. The ban covers 98% of federally owned Arctic waters — 115 million acres. It also blocks drilling off the Atlantic Coast around a series of coral canyons in 3.8 million acres stretching from Norfolk, Va., to the Canadian border. Opponents are upset, to say the least, and they’re confident that the ban won’t be permanent. But Obama administration legal experts believe the ban will withstand legal challenge. So it’s good news — for rare species of fish, endangered whales, and bears, for clean water and a lower risk of oil spills- for now.

If, despite this promising news, the future still looks grim for you, there’s a support group for that.

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