Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Candidates and the West

This is a beautiful landscape of New Mexico looking east from Emory Pass. Four years ago John Kerry ignored the 'E' word and came west and never found time to talk about our land and water issues. This was strange because he had a good record on general environmental issues. His poor campaign leadership team didn't recognize that these actually are important issues here in the Inter mountain region of the Nation.

Today there is a story in the media about the possibility of Lake Mead becoming unusable with in ten years. This should be put in front of all of the candidates for President today so they can understand the precarious situation here in the west. Our public lands and watersheds simply must be protected if there is to be a future here. Climate change will exacerbate our future as well.

Hillary Clinton has no public position on these issues so far as I can see, although she must be knowledgeable about them. Senator John McCain knows the issues as a Western Senator, but his ratings by the League of Conservation Voters is abysmal. That brings us to my favorite candidate Barack Obama. I think his team may be a little clueless on the issues here because he is from a non public land state that sits on a Great Lake.

Obama is in somewhat the same situation that Bill Clinton was when he took office. He did not come from a public land state. He was clueless and seemed to put his decisions regarding these public land issues into the hands of Western Governors and Senators. That was a bad move back then but admittedly we have a better group in office now. But still, Obama cant let his team ignore these issues if he is to be elected.

Obama must come out with a solid western land and water policy paper that errs on the side of protecting wilderness and species, adding to wilderness inventories, protecting roadless areas, protecting watersheds and riparian areas, and generally taking care of our great landscapes. He needs an economic policy for the west that doesn't include the rape and pillage of land and water for the extraction of fossil fuels.

I talked with some Obama folks who are working on policy for him and they admitted they are behind on this issue. I know there are a lot of people who are smarter than me out there that can help them craft a sensible policy. It needs to be done soon.

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