America’s natural places provide incredible benefits beyond the witnessing of awe-inspiring beauty. Forests improve air quality and serve as valuable carbon sinks, mitigating over 11 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions in 2017. Wetlands can help prevent flooding and remove excessive nutrients from water before it ever enters a treatment plant. In one example, the EPA found that one wetland in South Carolina removed the same amount of pollutants from the watershed naturally as would a $5 million treatment plant.
Yet America’s natural areas are at risk. Coastal zones have lost thousands of acres of critical natural areas. From 2007 through 2017, oil production on public lands increased by 60 percent. Recent federal actions have eroded protections for natural lands and ocean waters.
From the grizzly on the ridgeline to the bee in the meadow, from the wolf in the forest to the butterfly in our backyard, America’s wildlife is on the decline. Protecting wild spaces and natural areas is critical to the survival of threatened and endangered species, as well as other species in decline.
Despite the danger the action poses to our ocean environments and wildlife, in January 2018, the Trump administration proposed opening nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling, representing a drastic expansion of drilling expansion of future oil and gas leasing to the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as off Florida’s Gulf Coast. According to a survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, more than half of voters opposed the plans by the Trump administration to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
The plan is currently on hold after a federal judge in Alaska ruled that President Trump exceeded his authority in pushing the plans forward. The Biden administration should withdraw the plans and take the option off the table completely.