Let the black eagle soar

Yesterday I had the honor of attending the Department of Interior's 160th anniversary celebration where President Obama gave an inspiring speech about the value of our public lands and the wildlife that inhabits them.  Importantly, he said that for too long there has been a false dichotomy of having to choose between exploiting our nation's natural resources or preserving them.  If we choose wisely, he says, we can do both.

His remarks were part of a bigger announcement in which he committed to returning science "to the heart of the Endangered Species Act."  Under the Bush administration, scientists at the Interior department - particularly those working on endangered species - were not only ignored, they were sometimes outright bullied.  Obama's promise that the work of those scientists will now be respected was met with such elation that it was palpable.  The Interior employees had lived to see a better day and they were breathing a huge collective sigh of relief.

Despite being upstaged by the President, the rest of the program was equally noteworthy including renditions of God Bless America and America the Beautiful performed by the Department of Interior's own 6 person chorus and a presentation of the history of the department which included some eerie parallels between our current economic situation and the great depression with mention of how a public program designed to conserve our natural resources (the Civilian Conservation Corps) helped our country out of the depression.

Finally, there was the blessing by Jerry Cordova - the Native American Coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management - whose words in both his native language and in English were beautiful and poignant while reminding us what Native American's have known for so long - that we are the stewards of our land.  We have been entrusted to care for it and are expected to pass it on for the benefit of future generations.  He closed by making reference to when the Crow Nation adopted Barack Obama and bestowed on him the family name of his adoptive parents: Black Eagle.  Cordova's blessing - which emphasized a responsible stewardship ethic - followed by the President announcing his commitment to our public lands and wildlife suggested that Obama may have inherited much more from the Native American community than a name.