Climate Change and our Public Lands

This past Saturday marked the 27th National Public Lands Day. Over the years I have been a dedicated volunteer steward maintaining trails, repairing our riparian zone, and making the recreational assets we love in good safe shape for all. In 2019 $15 million worth of work by volunteers on over 2000 sites on this day were completed according to the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Is this magnificent work enough as in addition to heavy use, we battle climate change? We need nature to work to combat climate. Analysis from The Wilderness Society’s climate change tools found that the lifecycle emissions from the production and combustion of fossil fuels produced on public lands because of the oil and gas federal leasing programs are equivalent to over 20% of total U.S. GHG emissions.

High rates of development of these leases could result in lifecycle emissions that equate to more than half of the annual emissions of China – by far the world’s worst emitter according to The Wilderness Society.

There is hope though with a recently introduced bill in the house in December of 2019 that has ambitious goals named the “American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solutions Act.” It aims to make federal public lands a net-zero source of emissions by 2040.

It is encouraging that there is real recognition that our valuable natural assets are being ill-managed against the health and intent of most of the public and that action is being taken.

As wildfires ravage the west, releasing massive carbon, we need to encourage policies that recognize our natural assets as a powerful ally in our fight against climate change.


Tom Koehler

Founder Sustainable Hiker

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