Green Living: Green Living Guides
Environmentalism, Then and Now
Senior attorney and co-director, BioGems initiative
Year joined NRDC: 1972
Then: "I joined NRDC in the early years after the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act. Somehow, numerous people in the West had heard about NRDC and written to us even before we opened our first California office about abusive grazing practices on public lands. At that time, all of the decisions about grazing were made by the Bureau of Land Management and commercial users, and there was no way for members of the public to be involved. So we brought a lawsuit against the BLM, arguing that the agency needed to prepare environmental impact statements looking at wildlife and other specific resources of public lands before deciding whether or not grazing ought to be allowed and how it should be managed. We wanted to establish a precedent, and there isn't any question that it did establish a precedent. The BLM agreed to prepare 212 environmental impact statements -- and that's still a record. Even more important, the suit fundamentally changed the way the agency did business -- it made it possible for concerned citizens to have a say in management of their lands. But there still weren't enough changes on the ground to satisfy me or other environmentalists, and that's because the livestock industry is extremely powerful."
Now: "These days, I'm working on trying to stop the Bush administration's efforts to lease
-- to hand over -- as much of the West's publicly owned resources to the energy industry as fast as it possibly can. As part of that, we are once again trying to get the BLM to do two things: comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, and be an environmentally responsible agency. The Bush administration, by contrast, is trying to change the BLM into an agency that values energy production as the dominant use of public lands. It's dispiriting that they think they can do it, but it's energizing that we, at NRDC, aren't going to lie down and let them do it."
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