WASHINGTON — A leading voice in America’s environmental movement slammed Republicans for their “assault” on the country’s public lands and water.
Bruce Babbitt, who served as interior secretary from 1993 to 2001 under then president Bill Clinton, on Wednesday also chastised President Barack Obama for failing to “take up the mantle of land and water conservation… in a significant way.”
“It is clear to me that the House of Representatives will not only block progress, but will continue to sustain an assault on our public lands and water,” Babbitt said during a speech in Washington.
“The intent is to chip away, a blow at a time, at the edifice of environmental laws and regulations, avoiding a frontal assault that would call attention to the overall objective.”
Babbitt pointed to a Congress resolution in April which removed the grey wolf from the list of endangered species and a recent bill that would eliminate protections for over 16 million hectares (40 million acres) of public land.
Of the 250 million acres (100 million hectares) of public land, more than 41 million acres (16 million hectares) is leased for oil and gas exploration, said Babbitt, noting that only 9 million acres (3.6 million hectares) are protected and designated as ‘wilderness’ areas.
“President Obama should call upon the Congress to expand the National Wilderness Preservation System,” he said, adding there should be equally strong support for “the most important places” offshore and along the US coastline.