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Activist: Lands are in danger

Donna Gray
VAIL DAILY, April 28, 2005

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Environmental activism is patriotic, and it's essential these days because America's public lands are at grave risk - that was the message of Clayton Daughenbaugh, a Sierra Club staff member from Chicago who spoke to the local arm of the club in Glenwood Springs last week.

"We are experiencing a critical time in the history of the conservation movement for stewardship of (public) land in our country," he said.

Of concern is efforts by the current federal administration to eliminate decades-old preservation measures, he said.

"In the last 100 years the majority of people are in favor of conserving lands. It's important people be informed and it's important that people be active. That's why I've been sent on the road," Daughenbaugh said. "Any activism on behalf of public lands is a patriotic endeavor."

Among public lands at risk in the West, Daughenbaugh gave as examples the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and western Colorado's Roan Plateau.

The Arctic refuge, also known by its acronym, "ANWR," is home to a sizable caribou herd and a pristine environment, he said. Drilling for oil there, which appears likely after the passage in the U.S. House of a federal energy bill, will provide only a six-month supply of oil, he said.

Closer to home, revival of an "archaic" mining law has also opened the door for exploitation of Utah's national parks, he said.

"It will allow the government to claim any place where people walk or cows move as a location for a highway," he said.

The law, RS 2477, gives county government the ability to put roads through national parks.

On the Roan Plateau, gas and oil may be developed on 40,000 acres eligible for wilderness protection, he said.

Also troubling to Daughenbaugh is new U.S. Forest Service policy that he said countervenes the National Environmental Protection Act, which mandates public participation in federal land-use decisions.

"The Forest Service has made it so (comments) are categorically excluded from forest management decisions. Public participation is now optional in the national forest system," he said. "That says they're taking control of our public lands from us; that's antidemocratic."

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