Breath of Clarity

Environmental Policy Analysis Discussion #9: A

It is important to view land protection as a way to protect biodiversity which is under threat due to climate change. Research shows 99.8% of endangered species possess a trait that makes it challenging to adapt to global warming (Rice 2019). However, federal agencies consider only 64% of endangered species to be threatened by climate change and have implemented protection plans for just 18% of listed species (Rice 2019). Further, according to Astrid Caldas who is the senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, federal agencies have not translated concern for biodiversity into enough tangible action (Rice 2019). Considering the document, entitled Primary Federal Laws Associated with Wildlife Protection, provided in this week’s supplemental readings, the U.S. owns 640 million acres of public land that serves as wildlife habitat and its responsibility over the land necessarily includes preserving the wildlife living there. However, the Trump administration produced only one species’ document in 2017-18 that included management actions to address climate impacts (Rice 2019). Also, Primary Federal Laws Associated with Wildlife Protection conveys the doctrine of federal preemption, derived from the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, holds that state law must yield to federal law. A list of Frequently Asked Questions from University of Montana goes into further detail highlighting the lack of control state governments have to assist federal land management (Nie n.d.). For example, a federal agency is not even required to follow a state wildlife management plan (Nie n.d.). At the same time, a state is not required to preserve a designated wilderness area because it is federal responsibility (Nie n.d.). It seems illogical to me that the federal and state government are not both responsible for preserving biodiversity as I feel having more management would increase attention given towards the issue. That said, I recommend there be more protected areas under state control and federal control because the federal government is not giving enough attention to how global climate change is impacting biodiversity. A problem with the federal government’s approach to protecting wildlife is that it hesitates scientifically investigating potential biodiversity issues which leaves climate change action up to bureaucratic discretion.

Notice how in the federal government’s wildlife management chart, conducting biological assessments is optional and, even if development may affect species or critical habitat, there can be optional discussions between parties resulting in “no effect” determination which halts the whole consultation:

If a development may affect a species then how does the government determine whether it likely will without doing a biological assessment? Therefore, the decision to conduct a biological assessment is subject to stakeholder (only those who are allowed input in the discussion) motives.

There is also a disconnect considering, in the face of global climate change, the current federal administration attempted to restrict protection of public lands. For example, soon after his appointment as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, Ryan Zinke declared intent to reverse the Obama administration’s recent restrictions of energy exploration on the public lands including the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf and the massive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Rosenbaum 2019). To even consider extracting fossil fuels from undeveloped land in the current climate conditions does not make sense considering the emergence of renewable energy sources. Further, even the land that is supposed to be preserved is not in reality. A substantial portion of the 65 million undeveloped acres under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service is eligible for assignment to timber production (Rosenbaum 2019). The area’s multiple-use designation brings in potential for the energy industry to seek develop refining operations which would create air pollution adjacent to public lands and degrade them (Rosenbaum 2019). Evidently, without viewing a need for more protected lands as climate change worsens, there is potential for even less land to be protected as the number of endangered species are increasing day by day.


Nie, Martin. n.d. “Federal Land Agency Managers’ Frequently Asked Questions About Fish and Wildlife Management on Federal Lands”. University of Montana Bolle Center for People and Forests. Accessed November 9 2020.

Rice, Doyle. 2019. “Feds aren’t doing enough to protect endangered species from climate change, study finds”. USA Today. Accessed November 9 2020.

Rosenbaum, Walter A. 2020. Environmental Politics and Policy 11th Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA.: CQ Press, a Division of Sage.

Comment by Professor Morgan:


Good post and you bring up the issue of the federal government doing biological assessments. Unfortunately, much like the EPA’s ability to do chemical assessments, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to do biological assessments is limited by budget and resources. This limits our ability to protect species as early as we should be and can delay action for decades.

Comment by Erin Cleere:

Hi Mary,

I agree with you that it’s illogical conservation of biodiversity wouldn’t be required of both federal and state governments. And that even the federal government, with a mandate from the ESA of protecting endangered & threatened species, which includes, the ecosystems that they depend upon for survival, wouldn’t be focusing in on what that means with respect to climate change impacts to those species and the regions they’re able to persist in. When I was looking into ESA articles, I came across a bill Rand Paul has introduced for at least the past 7 years entitled the “Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act” that, among other components, would require any species proposed for listing be approved by Congress via joint resolution, and that any species that are listed would have to be removed 5 years after the date of that joint resolution. That seems like, with how things are going in Congress (and considering that some Governors wouldn’t support listing of anything that might impact development or resource extraction), we’d see virtually no species listed. It hasn’t passed and doesn’t seem to have many cosponsors (for the 3-4 years I looked at), , and it would violate the intent of the ESA, but it seems like there are lots of examples of less obvious violations that are detrimental or even prohibitive to species recovery.


Erin to an external site. (Here’s a year with a summary of the major components of the bill –

Comment by Andrea Glaros:


Great analysis on land use and protection as it relates to wildlife and recovery threatened and endangered species. In reading your post, it made me think of one point Rosenbaum discusses in this chapter and that is the difference in view between state governments and local governments. Excluding the Trump administration, the federal government has put into place a lot of policies which affect all states in terms of the protection of land, monuments, or wildlife. While local governments have done this a little as well, there seems to be a disconnect between Washington and the states in how the land should be used and protected. Rosenbaum (2017) notes Alaska’s dependence on the energy segment and most of their state income is derived from oil and gas companies extracting resources. In some western states their is disagreements on protected land for recreation and agricultural uses which some state residents feel the federal government doesn’t understand their need for land us. I personally, believe that wildlife and natural ecosystems need to be studied and protected because they are what keeps our environment healthy and thriving but we have also developed into a society which is increasing in population and needs for food and energy. Do you think their is a way to create a healthy balance between these two viewpoints?

Rosenbaum, W. A. (2017). Environmental Policy and Politics. Washington D.C.: CQ Press.

Comment #1:

Original Post by Jenny Murphy:

This discussion topic was a bit difficult to me. I suppose my answer would be no, we do not have enough protected areas in the U.S.

The federal government owns about 635 million acres of land which totals about 28% of the land in the U.S. The resources harvested from public lands include about 35% of the U.S. petroleum reserves and 50% of geothermal energy. However, around 65% of national oil reserves reside below land that is restricted from energy exploration and development, with 110 million acres preserved, this makes harvesting resources essential for our current livelihoods difficult. (Rosenbaum 2020, 275, 282 and 291).

Alaska’s economy is mostly reliant on energy production. More than half of their state income is earned through oil and gas royalties (Rosenbaum 2020, 273). The lack of residents and businesses residing in Alaska, make economic health difficult in ways other than these resource incomes. In the western states, 20% of timber sales are returned to local governments helping to fund various programs such as schools and state hospitals. The Pacific Northwest alone contains timber reserves that are more than three times the size of all of the private, commercial forests in the entire U.S. and is worth more than $20 billion (Rosenbaum 2020, 282 and 287).

On one side, I see the need for opening up land to harvest resources that we are so reliant on and providing funding for much needed government processes, however, once these places are altered, they may never return to their original states. I think we are in need of creative ways to discontinue reliance on some of the more difficult to produce resources. For example, taking stronger actions to replace gas powered vehicles with electric and developing additional wind and solar farms. In addition, utilizing products other than wood for toilet paper, paper and development.

Hemp can grow from seed to harvest in about four months. Its fibers can be mixed with lime to make a concrete like product that is highly insulating and prevents pests and mold from damaging a building. This product can be used as a foundation to a building, the walls of a building and as insulation, In addition, hemp can be grown with less fertilizer than traditional crops and its long roots tap water underground, circulate air and improve soil quality (Popescu 2018). Hemp can be used to make clothing, produce biofuel, paper and cardboard, and as plastic alternatives, among many other uses.

With communities of color to be three times as likely to live in nature deprived areas with little, or no access to parks, paths and greenspaces, we must continue to preserve and create wilderness or protected areas (Borunda 2020).

In addition to the need to harvest resources on these protected lands, is the threat of climate change. Fragmenting habitats is one of the largest drivers of species loss. Protecting areas that provide habitat to listed species, or species at risk of becoming threatened should be a top priority with the fast approaching effects of climate change.


Borunda, Alejandra. 2020. “How ‘Nature Deprived’ Neighborhoods Impact the Health of People of Color”. Accessed November 8, 2020.

Popescu, Adam. 2018. “There is no place Like Home, Especially if it’s Made of Hemp”. Accessed November 8, 2020. to an external site.

Rosenbaum, Walter A. 2020. Environmental Politics and Policy 11th Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA.: CQ Press, a Division of Sage.

My Comment:

Hi Jenny,

Awesome, concise account of the circumstances in Alaska.

In Alaska, there was pushback from other states to protect the biodiversity at public lands under the Trump administration. A group of 15 Democratic state attorneys general sued to block the Trump administration’s decision to sell drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, based upon the plan failing to account for the danger to wildlife and climate change impacts (Naylak 2020). According to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the plan to open drilling in the 1.56 million-acre coastal plain would ignore impacts on polar bears, caribou and the region’s other wildlife (Naylak 2020). It leads me to consider President-elect Biden’s platform versus the perspective of Congress. President Biden aims to protect public lands for the purpose of contributing to climate resiliency whereas Congress is looking to put legislation in place that gives power over public land to the states (Republican National Committee 2020). Alaska is a place where the legislation would significantly change the course of events as oil and gas royalties play a major part in the state’s economy and stakeholders from other states would have less influence in terms of restricting oil and gas drilling .


Republican National Committee. 2020. “Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform”. Accessed November 10.

Naylak, Malathi. 2020. “Blue States Sue to Stop Trump’s Arctic Refuge Drilling Plan (2)”. Bloomberg News. Accessed November 10 2020.

Comment #2:

Original Post by Casey Kahler:

On a whole, the US Federal Government owns approximately 635 million acres of land-about 28% of the total US land area (Rosenbaum 2020, 275). These lands have further been divided by Congress into different domains designated for a variety of purposes. Some of these uses include: National Wilderness Preservation System (110+ million acres), National Park System, National Wildlife Refuge System, National Forests, and National Rangelands (Rosenbaum 2020, 278). As an individual who loves driving through areas that are not developed and an avid goer of our National Parks I favor on the side of we should have more areas protected. Furthermore, from an environmental standpoint in regards to climate change it makes sense to preserve more land. The loss of land due to human expansion is rapid and within the US, about a football field worth of natural area is converted for human development every 30 seconds (Center for Western Priorities, n.d.). Many scientist believe that this rapid loss of land is impacting our climate challenges and as a result there is a push to protect at least 30% of the world on land and sea by 2030. This movement will allow governments and businesses to work towards this step in 2021 when 196 governments are scheduled to meet in Kunming China to adopt these new global biodiversity targets (The Nature Conservancy 2019).

As much as I believe we should be protecting these lands though, Leshy discussed ways in which our public lands have helped our nation. For instance, the selling of federal lands helped pay off the debt of the government from the Revolutionary War. These lands have allowed for expansion of settlements and land-grant programs. Furthermore, they’ve provided space for railroads and the opportunity for minerals and even coal and oil to be extracted (Leshy 2010, 116). However, these lands serve a vital role moving forward in regards to climate concerns. They will be used for renewable energy sources, space for a new national “smart grid”, and even for the use of sequestering carbon (Leshy 2010, 117).

One excerpt I related to was “Nature’s loss is our own” (Leshy 2010, 123). This idea really made me think about the ultimate question of the discussion. At first glance, I believe we should have more protected lands. However, upon reading Leshy 2010, I believe that we need to look at our lands in a different light. For instance, if we use our protected lands for renewable energies we will still be disrupting habitats of species who rely on those areas. Ultimately, I believe we need to protect and preserve our lands but I think we also need to examine our own impact on the lands and become more conscientious of how our actions and planned actions will impact the lands around us and determine ways to mitigate these impacts.


Center for Western Priorities. N.d. “Protecting 30 Percent of America by 2030.” Last accessed November 10, 2020. to an external site.

Leshy, John. 2010. “Federal Lands in the Twenty-First Century.” Natural Resources Journal. Winter Vol.50 (1), p.111-137,contains,john%20leshy%202010&sortby=rank&mode=Basic (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Rosenbaum, Walter A. 2020. Environmental Politics and Policy. 11th ed. Thousand Oaks: CQ Press.

The Nature Conservancy. 2019. “30X30: Eight Steps to Protect the Best on Earth.” Last updated October 30, 2019.

My Comment:

Hi Casey.

Awesome post!

I am particularly interested in the Global Biodiversity Summit you mentioned that is scheduled to take place in China during 2021. How do you see the international perspective gained from COVID-19 shaping the meeting? Based on President-elect Biden’s platform regarding the environment, I wonder how the U.S. would involve itself in the Global Biodiversity Summit.

Biden conveyed his environmental platform is to urgently undo the Trump administration’s environmental agenda (Lee and Magill 2020). The Biden administration also plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord almost immediately without congressional approval (Lee and Magil 2020). One relatively immediate change, compared to reviving regulations on climate pollutants from power plants and automobiles, Biden can focus on is revising guidance documents (Lee and Magil 2020). For example, it is predicted Biden is going to cancel a memo from the Environmental Protection Agency that argues the Clean Air Act gives states flexibility to administer air pollution requirements (Lee and Magill 2020). Also, Biden is expected to immediately restore the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah (Lee and Magill 2020). Clearly, Biden has shown he perceives more areas should be protected in the face of global climate change.


Lee, Stephen and Bobby Magill. 2020. “Biden to Move Fast to Strike Down Trump’s Environmental Agenda”. Bloomberg Law. Accessed November 11.

Response by Casey Kahler:

Hi Mary,

Thank you so much for your reply and additional information too! I did some more digging on the conference and it will be held in May 2021 due to COVID-19. It’s the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It sounds as if currently some are disgruntled with the draft of the proposal because it doesn’t consider COVID along with wildlife markets and trade. Furthermore, this is pushing more emphasis to China as this is their first time hosting a multilateral environmental conference of this scale. Overall, it sounds as if the major focus for the conference is: protection of global biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity, and sharing the benefits (Lingyu 2020). Honestly, I’m really excited to see how President-elect Biden handles his time in office and to see what changes (fingers crossed positive) he makes.



Lingyu, Kong. 2020. “Can China Take the Lead in the UN Biodiversity Process?” China Dialogue, September 17, 2020.