My View: Election gives us a chance to reclaim the future of our environment
With the historic Senate election victories of Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in Georgia, sane, principled people once again have control of the U.S. Senate.
For Oregonians (and Americans) who care about the future of our environment, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this swing toward democracy, decency and justice.
Former President Donald Trump left behind a path of environmental carnage. From clean water and public lands to climate change and endangered species, there has never been a president so dead set on liquidating America's environmental and health safeguards.
Congress should not just immediately set out to reverse Trump's environmental policies, but it should work with the Biden administration to make up for lost time.
The Congressional Review Act allows a simple majority vote in the House and Senate to overturn administrative decisions from the previous six months. Elected leaders should overturn a host of disastrous Trump rules, including those that have opened the Arctic to drilling, undermined the EPA's efforts to protect public health, stripped protections for endangered species, and expanded logging without public input.
Even as I write this, the Trump administration was working on last-minute plans to gut decades-old protections for Eastern Oregon forests.
After Congress uses this tool to undo some of the most recent damage of the Trump years, Oregon's congressional delegation is primed to play an essential role in answering the important question of what comes next.
Solutions for the climate crisis have been given new life in the Senate. As one of the strongest climate champions on Capitol Hill, our own Sen. Jeff Merkley can lead the charge to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to let our forests grow to sequester and store carbon for generations. Protecting all older forests across Oregon is one of the most important things our state can do to fight climate change. We need visionary federal leadership to make it happen.
To flip the script from the past four years of public lands attacks, Congress also can build on recent bipartisan efforts to safeguard public lands. Just two years ago, Congress passed Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers legislation by a 363-62 vote in the House, and 92-8 in the Senate. The unifying values of conservation and environmental protection demonstrated by that vote point a way forward today.
For the past few years here in Oregon, Sen. Ron Wyden has been seeking nominations of rivers deserving of Wild & Scenic protection based on the clean drinking water they provide, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.
Around Mount Hood, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and others in the delegation have been working for years to bring together diverse stakeholders to craft a much-needed vision and plan that balances conservation and recreation for Mount Hood.
During the pandemic, our rivers and public lands have provided us with outdoor spaces to find escape and freedom. The Jan. 6 Capitol riot put in stark relief the worst of America. But from where I sit in Oregon today, thinking about the beauty of Mount Hood, the peace and majesty of our old-growth forests, and the life-giving waters of our rivers, I also see hope.
Love of those natural treasures unites us, and America now has a government capable of protecting them. Let's get to work.
Sean Stevens of North Portland is with Oregon Wild.
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