Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Voice for the Wilderness

This past week former-Secretary of State Brue Babbitt made his way back into the limelight in order to criticize policy decisions made both by Congress and President Obama.  In a speech delivered at the National Press Club, Secretary Babbitt did not mince words.  For example, he said, “Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources.”  And, he called on President Obama to “take up the mantle of land and water conservation” and criticized him because, up to this point, he has failed to do that.  While the New York Times called his defense caustic, and I suppose it was, I found his speech refreshing.

This admission comes to somewhat of a surprise to me because too often when I read the news, I find myself squeamish because of the lack of civility in the public discourse.  So, my reaction to Secretary Babbitt's words has resulted in some self reflection. After some thinking, I realized that I could not cringe when our public policy has swerved so far away from the environmental sensitivities of mainstream America.  With our political system so out of whack, it seemed appropriate to be sounding alarm bells. 

While I am uncertain whether Secretary Babbitt intends to remain in the spotlight, his voice added something valuable to the ongoing debate.  His speech may have not had the elegance of other voices who have celebrated landscapes of the West like those of John Steinbeck, Timothy Egan, Willa Cather or Wallace Stegner.  His speech did have heart though and more than that, it also had the ear of the Washington establishment.  Whether those in Washington were listening though, only time will tell.

-- Brigham Daniels

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