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Sierra Club speaker says nation turning its back on conservation

Herald & Review
September 21, 2005

DECATUR - America has enjoyed a long tradition of conserving its public lands.

But that proud tradition is in jeopardy today, said Clayton Daughenbaugh, a national conservation organizer with the Sierra Club.

Daughenbaugh spoke to a crowd of more than 40 community members Tuesday evening at First United Methodist Church.

"This is a crisis in the history of conservation in this country," Daughenbaugh said. "It is the most radical change that has ever taken place since Teddy Roosevelt was president."

Daughenbaugh expressed angst over efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska among other places. The refuge is home to porcupine caribou, migrating birds and the Gwich'in people.

"The current (Bush) administration would eagerly do great harm to all this for six months' supply of oil and the money to be gained from the drilling," Daughenbaugh said. "While the decision on the arctic refuge justifiably gains headlines, public lands in the lower 48 states are being subjected to conservation rollbacks at the behest of oil and gas exploitation."

Places such as the Rocky Mountain Front, the Red Rock Canyons in Utah and desert mesas in New Mexico also are at risk, he said.

"For the first time in the history of the conservation movement in this country, we are not adding lands for protection," Daughenbaugh said. "We're taking protection away. Not just a little bit. A lot."

Daughenbaugh said the public lands are owned by all Americans. He encouraged community members to write letters local, state and national decision-makers in support of protecting the lands.

The son of a Methodist minister, Daughenbaugh said his religious faith encourages stewardship and conservation of God's creation.

"I enjoy the outdoors," Daughenbaugh said. "It's a place for spiritual sustenance for me. I tell my kids to hike is to pray. To be in the outdoors and God's creation, you get a feeling for what God's about."

Those in attendance voiced support for Daughenbaugh's message.

"I was really impressed with how well he covered the subject - all the subjects," said Darwin Shroyer of Decatur. "The biggest thing was he mentioned our present administration has just turned their backs on conservation completely."

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