Obama’s Poor Conservation Record

For those of us who had hoped Barack Obama’s election would finally restore and strengthen protections for imperiled wildlife and natural ecosystems, the results to date have been a letdown. Many voters are extremely disappointed or even angry about his record on wildlife conservation, and I suspect President Obama underestimates the significance of this widespread and well-founded discontent among many who tended to be his strong supporters.

Candidate Obama consistently said that dealing with environmental problems—especially climate change, the number one threat to protecting the rich biological diversity that supports all life on Earth—would be one of his top priorities. Believing that, the House of Representatives acted quickly once President Obama was in office to approve comprehensive climate change legislation and send it to the Senate. The House bill curbed greenhouse gas emissions and set up a mechanism to help protect wildlife and biological diversity. But the President failed to put his political muscle into pushing the Senate to act. Then the long drawn-out battle over health care followed by his party’s loss of numerous House and Senate seats in 2010  doomed any chance of enacting climate change legislation for the foreseeable future – a missed opportunity that will result in considerable unnecessary environmental damage.

The opportunity for legislative action lost, one of the President’s strongest environmental appointments, energy policy “czar” Carol Browner, (former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Clinton) resigned after only two years in office. The White House’s decision not to push for climate change legislation likely further emboldened oil and gas industry champions in Congress determined to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act. Their efforts were only narrowly averted in the 2011 budget bill. Given its weak performance to date, it is reasonable to wonder just how firmly the White House will continue to stand by Lisa Jackson, EPA’s strong administrator, and fight future efforts to limit EPA’s authority.

Oiled Pelican, (c) AP / Charlie RiedelUnfortunately, climate change is not the only issue affected by Obama’s  timid legislative approach. The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago dramatically underscored the need for stricter regulation of offshore oil drilling to protect our oceans and coasts and the people and wildlife that depend on them. But is the White House fighting for tougher new laws to assure that nothing like this event that triggered the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history will ever happen again? No. Obama did appoint a stellar commission that made thoughtful and important recommendations for stronger offshore drilling regulation, but he has yet to push for reform legislation – and each passing week whatever opportunity there is to win needed reforms grows smaller. Although a few stalwart environmental leaders have introduced reform bills, others in Congress have interpreted the administration’s congressional inaction as an opportunity to promote more unsafe drilling in more places. These places include Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, where  marine ecosystems are even more fragile and vulnerable to devastation from oil spills than in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not only has the President failed to push for desperately needed legislation, he [supported his Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who, with no consultation and no warning, adopted the Bush administration’s plan to remove federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies based on political boundaries rather than the science required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). When conservationists sued and a federal court overturned his illegal action, Secretary Salazar actively encouraged Congress to enact legislation removing federal protection from Northern Rockies wolves, ignoring the court’s decision. And the White House did nothing to stop it.

For the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the ESA, Congress—with the complicity of the Obama administration—has intervened to remove all protection from a listed species. If, as many fear, this turns out to be a precedent for additional legislation blocking protection for endangered species, the damage to our ability to safeguard imperiled plants and animals essential to the web of life will be incalculable. In the past, conservationists have successfully defeated equally destructive attempts by anti-environmental administrations to weaken the ESA. Preventing an administration perceived to be in favor of environmental protection from undermining our nation’s most important law for conserving biological diversity is nearly impossible. It should be noted that the President has used his administrative authority to do some good things for conservation. For instance, the Obama administration designated more than 187,000 square miles as critical habitat for polar bears (listed as “threatened” under the ESA), the largest such designation in history.

For the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the ESA, Congress—with the complicity of the Obama administration—has intervened to remove all protection from a listed species. If, as many fear, this turns out to be a precedent for additional legislation blocking protection for endangered species, the damage to our ability to safeguard imperiled plants and animals essential to the web of life will be incalculable.

But this is an administration much too quick to turn and run when anti-conservationists bark. Their kowtowing to the Republican-controlled House and abandoning their own pro wilderness policy for federal lands, barely five months after establishing it, is just the latest example.  They still say they are sticking by their proposed America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which could put renewed emphasis on conserving more of our nation’s vanishing wildlands, but with the same  congressional opposition pushing against it, it is hard to see much hope that  this initiative will achieve anything significant.

Clearly the President’s overall conservation record to date is negative.  Whether he can yet earn a passing grade for this four-year term likely depends upon the final form of two significant Obama administration conservation regulatory proposals—a rewrite of the rules that govern the stewardship of our  193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, and new guidelines for energy development on public lands.
The current regulations for managing national forests, which were written by the Reagan administration, have protected wildlife reasonably well, but they need updating and strengthening.  President George W. Bush’s attempt at a rewrite produced rules that were distinctly pro-logging and overturned in federal court in a suit brought by Defenders. The new set of regulations recently proposed by the Obama administration offer strong statements of intent to conserve wildlife but leave implementation so much to the discretion of individual forest managers that political influence, particularly in an anti-environmental administration, could render stated conservation intentions meaningless. Defenders and other conservationists have made the serious shortcomings of these proposed new rules clear to the administration. Now we wait for their response.

We also wait to see how Obama will handle the development of the utility-scale solar energy projects the Interior Department is vigorously promoting on 22 million acres of western public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Conservationists, of course, applaud the development of solar projects to supplant dirty fossil fuel energy plants. But we are strongly encouraging the administration to issue standards that guide these massive solar s projects, each of which can sprawl across thousands of acres and consume enormous amounts of water, to locations where they will not cause significant harm to fragile desert wildlife and ecosystems. Locating the massive projects in this manner should also hasten their actual development by minimizing the threat of environmental lawsuits. Whether they follow such a course, or opt instead to take an overly permissive direction that sacrifices wildlife and habitat to energy development on public lands, remains to be seen.

Obama’s record to date gives us no reason for optimism on forest protections and energy development guidelines. His administration’s conservation record falls far short of what it promised, what was expected of it and – most importantly – what we need. Our major environmental problems, especially those caused by climate change and loss of species and habitat, are huge and growing and will cause future generations great anguish and difficulty if our political leaders fail to lead.  Unfortunately, President Obama’s instinct seems to be to avoid tough battles, relying on the argument that even as his record falls short, his administration is better on conservation than the previous one and better than any likely to succeed him should his re-election effort fall short.

Our major environmental problems, especially those caused by climate change and loss of species and habitat, are huge and growing and will cause future generations great anguish and difficulty if our political leaders fail to lead.

That argument simply isn’t acceptable. Avoiding serious action, or–to use one of the President’s own phrases–“continuing to kick the can down the road” to another administration, will only result in our most serious environmental problems continuing to grow faster than society’s capacity to solve them. The dangers are too great to give the President a pass on environmental leadership. Those of us who care about the fate of the planet and generations to come must demand real progress that promises to solve our very real problems. For conservation, the future has to be now.

83 Responses to “Obama’s Poor Conservation Record”

  1. Corbin

    It is time that the left, the actual left, in this country stopped voting for democrats or as they should be rightly called republican light. We can no longer afford four or eight years of activism, education, fund raising, etc etc to stop just because there is a democrat in the White House. They are not different, republicans and democrats, in ways that are going to matter in 50 years.

    It makes me sad though that it took years of Obama to start seeing some on the left get “angry”. But not really angry. This article at times feels almost apologetic. Time to stop saying your sorry for actual asking Obama to do what he says and say what he does. That is not a high standard by the way. Honestly voting for either candidate is a joke they are both just tools of the corporate world and if we want to change the world we need to find leaders who will not sell their souls.

    • Kim

      Bravo. Obama never should have been elected to office in the first place: his passivitity/lukewarm interest in the environment was apparent to anyone watching the Clinton/Obama Primary debates. He was a cheerleader for the US to aggressively develop nuclear facilities, natural gas, and “clean” coal from the beginning- before he was even elected.
      This clearly demonstrated an allegiance to dirty corporate interests- or simple ignorance or apathy about the profoundly dangerous consequences of using these conventional energy sources on our planet.
      His election (and retention) of Salazar says it all. Disgusting.

  2. David

    We need to get our supporters in Congress to lean on the administration like the bad guys do. I see the admin denied the Fisher. It joins the Prarie Dogs and many other species.
    We have a lot of supporters and that could commincate the message better than we can .
    We have lobbied congress well despite teh wolf fiasco but we were not prepapered for to lobby the administration. Despite the 08 Rhetoric they only pay attention if thye think you are important -well lets show them

    • Sebastianr

      I would insert one caveat:

      Their is a time for a  3rd Party and there is a Not Time  for a 3rd Party.

      “Green” Candidate Nader, in one sense, is cynically* responsible for the entire Governmental mess we have. By siphoning off the votes from Al Gore ( the best environmental hope we’ve had )  in Florida, he gave us the Cheney-Bush nightmare and all that flowed from their Ninth Circle.

      As a former Obama supporter ( even though mistrusting his pro-environmental speak )  I must bitterly accept not  that the Nation was duped, but outright abandoned. While we don’t expect an oratorical politico to keep total faith,  I don’t think we expected such incredible giveaways to anti-environment interests.

      At the same time, however, could one in good conscience vote for a Nader if there is at all a close race between, say, Palin and Obama?  

      As we have seen, the Presidency is not just a four year stretch: the Supreme Court, Congress, and voter turnout and redistricting may be enormously influenced by the President’s play with Congress. 

      Let’s hope that 2012 is not replay of 2001. Obama, true, is no Al Gore, but sadly, there is worse. Much, much worse.

      * What happened to Nader’s supposed withdrawal from hotly contested states? Florida was in his view Not hotly contested? And, even after 4 years of the Bush Hell, he runs again.  

      Third parties can also have their False Prophets!

  3. Atli

    The Obama administration should hang their heads in shame for standing back and letting people like Ken Salazar damage protection for wolves in the country like that. If they’re gonna repair any of this damage, they need to have some backbone. And boot Mr Salazar while they’re at it. I love that there are so many people fighting for wolves, but it’s hard to fight when you need to fight against a lukewarm administration to boot.

  4. Lee

    The writer seems almost as if he believes that Obama could still do something when all he has done, not just in this area but in others as well, is to cave in to the Republicans or corporate interests. I no longer support Obama and perhaps like many others simply won’t bother to vote in the next election at all. I can’t vote for a right-wing ultra-conservative Republican and there will be no true courageous Democrat running. Tough times for this country and the world.

  5. Marti Thorson

    How will his children judge him when their children have no wilderness to visit, no wolves to listen to, no polar bears to marvel at. I know how mine will. He is a liar and I will not vote for him again.

  6. Jeff

    Too much alarmism on climate change in the article. There was more carbon in the atmosphere during the last Ice Age then now. The science isn’t clear on Anthropogenic Global Warming. 35 years ago the scientific community was fearing another Ice Age.

    I agree on everything else though. Salazar was despicable in delisting the wolves and Obama did a horrible job during the Gulf crisis.

  7. David

    While I live in the UK and not the USA I followed the election when President Obama was elected, I was very pleased when he won the election and hoped he would live up to everyone’s hopes, I thought it gave hope to the whole world.
    However I am disappointed in his lack of defence for endangered species, especially the Wolf.
    In the UK we have lost animals like the Wolf due to persecution hundreds of years ago and I believe we are poorer for it.
    I cannot understand those who take pleasure in killing such a wonderful animal and the aerial shooting which is being permitted is just so disgustingly wrong.
    One day our descendants will look back on these times, if we are not careful, and blame us for the extinction of these and other wildlife, yet President Obama, who has the power to save these creatures sits back and does nothing while those with bigoted hatred like Palin etc. kill

  8. DLKeur

    Because of Obama’s failure to protect and preserver wildlife, including wolves, and wilderness…because he has proven, in fact, to be a bitter enemy of the progressive cause, especially wildlife preservation, this Progressive will never again vote for him. He’s a dishonorable liar.

  9. Edie Cleveland

    Yes, the Democratic record is far from ideal on environmental, conservation & humane issues. I just hope that everyone who says they are concerned about these issues is keeping up a constant “dialogue” with their state & federal legislators, governor, fish & wildlife authorities, Congress & the President.

    In addition to phone calls at critical times, I am on the White House website with comments at least weekly & usually all the others as well. All these people have hundreds of issues. If we want to keep ours in their focus, we have to be a squeaky wheel every day.

    It may seem ridiculous, but most people completely loose sight of the fact that without air we can breath, water we can drink & food that’s safe to eat, unemployment won’t matter much. And explaining why wolves, fishers & a forest in Borneo actually do end up affecting these is extremely esoteric for most folks who vote.

    So, if the majority of voters don’t understand, neither will most politicians or the civil servants in all the departments that are also key players. The only weapon at hand is volume, noise, constant pressure.

    Think about it! The polar ice cap almost doesn’t exist anymore & they still don’t understand or believe in global warming, climate shift, whatever the buzz word is this week. Convince the people you can, but most of them will never get it. You have to make them do it anyway for reasons they can understand – like being unemployed if they don’t.

  10. Sebastian

    Oops! My “reply” should have been to Corbin instead.

    Sorry, David!

    – Sebastian

  11. votegreenparty

    The sad thing is the thought process that you shouldn’t vote Green party because it will throw away the vote for lesser of two evils and then the more evil party comes into office(like the Bush/Gore election). But dems and repubs are basically the same…. which is all the more reason to vote Green party next election.

  12. Pilar Wolfe

    I think that this administration has totally let us down. I had some hope but I have only confirmed that the current democrats in power just do what they always have done. There has been no change. It is time to organize, lobby and demand that the environment is protected. It is time to demand that Lisa Jackson and Ken Salazar respond to the need to protect all species. We must become as loud and visible as we can Now!

  13. ed

    Come on people think how he acted with just getting a dog for his kids. He made a major issue of it,he certainly isn’t an animal lover.

  14. Keith Sutherland

    I can not begin to say how disillusioned I am by this presidents administration. His appointment of Ken Salazar as Secretary of The Interior was no less than slitting the throats of every animal running free in this country. I have never witnessed a more blood thirsty person than Ken Salazar. Obama knows this and like everything else he refuses to fix it. We need people who can lead this country and make it the greatest place on earth for both man and animal. We don’t need people who destroy what they don’t understand. We need people who solve problems not create them. Obamas destruction of our natural resources is no less than terroristic.

  15. Jeremy

    Maybe one of the main things environmental activists can do is organize at the state and municipal level. I think the recent legislation in Oregon protecting both wolves and cattle is an example of what can happen when ecologically-minded representatives are elected. I realize that the federal government has enormous resources at its disposal, but it seems to me that there are many battles that can be joined (perhaps more effectively) at the state level. I certainly am not arguing that anyone should back away from pressuring Washington, but I think that perhaps states could act as more of a bulwark against the increasing erosion of protections for species and for clean water, air and soil.

    Third parties have never been successful in the United States. I don’t like the national Democrats and would love a viable, greener alternative. But I do know that right now it is either Democrats or you know what. That’s why pressure at the state and local level is where to begin fielding a new and better generation of legislators who take our ecological health to heart.

  16. Judith Chase

    I agree with you, Roger. But you did not mention something of great importance to our nation: The BLM is decimating our country’s wild horses at the cost of over $100,000 per day, and warehousing the mustangs they round up under miserable conditions! Do you care at all about our country’s wild horses and burros?

  17. Nancy

    The sad and disturbing truth is that even if called on his poor conservation record, what ammunition do we have? Threatening to vote for the other party in 2012, which would be even worse? I doubt I will live to see a green party achieve any clout in D.C. They (the present admin.) don’t seem to ‘get’ that saving the planet is saving their only home–once in power they do anything and everything to keep that power, so they kowtow to industry greed, to their own greed. I am mad and very sad.

  18. Richard Leonard

    Obama’s record has been dismally productive. For starters, his choice of Cabinet members was significantly anti-environment, eg. Salazar and Vilsack. His moves and non-moves on climate, wildlife and the environment have pushed us way back towards the 1930s.

    I am a Progressive/Liberal and have no intention of voting for Obama in 2012. I will either find a candidate among the Working Family types or will do a write-in. I have worked to prompt this man to do better, petitions, telephone calls, letters to the editor, and many donations. I’m not giving up, but a vote for Obama from me is not in the cards right now. A very sad, frustrating situation!!!

  19. Helen

    Thank you for writing this excellent description of what is, so sadly, happening. I hope that President Obama has been sent a copy and I hope that he will take heed IMMEDIATELY. Thank you, Rodger Schlickeisen, for all that you do to promote the care of our nation’s wildlife.

  20. Maria

    I am proud of the reproachful and disappointed tone of this article, and there is not an overall “apologetic” tone at all. He says about wildlife what many are sadly saying with equal frustration about Obama’s indifference or unresponsive attitude on many other issues – issues that got him elected such as immigration reform. It is such a shame that humans are so busy with “progress” and “civilization” to see that the planet was not made to hold so many of us, nor that we were meant to dominate it and certainly not at the expense of all these other species of nature. We conveniently determined that the Earth was “destined” for us, and look at all of the damage and destruction we have done. We should be ashamed of ourselves, and seek ways to reform our lifesyles, our behavior, and above all, our perspective on the planet and our existence in general. We are but a small dot on the landscape, if only we saw it…

  21. Lucy

    I do agree that the Obama administration is a huge disappointment when it comes to wildlife conservation. As someone who lives in the Idaho Panhandle it breaks my heart when I hear of the plans for wolf management in this state.
    But I do have to make one comment on Rogers statement that “climate change is, the number one threat to protecting the rich biological diversity that supports all life on Earth”.
    With the world population hitting close to 7 billion this year, when are conservation groups going to start spreading the word on the real threat. Our sheer numbers is the greatest threat to the environment and all life on Earth. It seems to be such a taboo subject because most people are not willing to sacrifice having children for a better world. In most societies, including this one, we congratulate people when they have children and the more the better. Until we get our numbers under control I don’t think we have much of a chance to save our ever deteriorating environment.

    • John Helak

      You are absolutely 110% correct! But it is a message that NO ONE wants to hear. Can you imagine any politician of any persuasion stating what you have so eloquently put?

  22. Jennifer

    Well, what did you expect? You idiots drank the “Hope and Change” Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker. Obama promised that he was going to use every trick in the book (and then some) to push this country over the edge, and he’s been doing exactly that ever since he took office. And you beat the drum to get him elected, so this is really your fault, as well as his! Expressing disappointment that Obama waffled and lied makes about as much sense as getting upset that a rattlesnake bites.

    Perhaps if the enviro groups had spent less of their energy self-righteously promoting political correctness, and had paid attention to Obama’s message instead of to the color of his skin, your might have seen this coming. As far as I’m concerned, you abdicated your responsibilities to the environment as soon as you decided that pushing political ideological fundamentalism became more important than pushing a non-partisan, science-based conservation message. This is now your mess, as well as Obama’s. Sure, the Republicans would have been an awful choice as well (I personally thought we couldn’t get worse than Bush), but at least they would have been a known quantity. And perhaps under the Republicans, there would have been a greater number of middle-class people left who had jobs and money to support the environmental fight. Good luck getting funding from the poor – which is soon going to be most of us!

  23. Alfred T. Brayton

    If you really want the repubilcans back in power handing out oil, lumbering and mining leases left and right on public land and moving toward drilling in the Arctic NWR, etc, keep on slamming Obama and you’ll get it!!!!! ATB

  24. Barbara Hegedus

    I agree – Obama has consistently been a disappointment.

    That there is little to be optimistic about is also true.

    Along with many Democrats in office, he seems to concern himself with the environment and the non-humans in our world, only when oil/energy will benefit. No difference between Dems or Republicans.

    I don’t see any reason to assume they will start paying attention to what the majority of Americans want. (They will, of course, pretend to pay attention as the next campaigns ramp up, then ignor all their own promises. Same old, same old.)

    Meanwhile, temperatures continue to climb and selected species continue to be slaughtered, benefiting wealthy ranchers and farmers
    at the expense of our forests, air and water quality, and of course, many species caught in their endless greed.

  25. Karen E Ray

    I find your opinions entirely unfair to Pres. Obama, and I totally disagree with your claims. The reality is that Pres. Obama has been forced to deal with our environment the same way he’s been forced to deal with our economic crisis, our national education, and the two wars: try to undo, reverse, and repair the mountains of devastation in each done by the Bush/Cheney administration. Bush/Cheney set our nation back 80 years to the Depression! I see Pres. Obama as 1000% more accomplished overall, than what you state. Ken Salazar, Sarah Palin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Idaho, WY, MT gov’s are my picks to blame…and to remove.

  26. White Raven

    Having two parties in this country is killing our efforts. There are only issues and weighing out the options to choose the best course. We can’t even have a healthy debate anymore when the heading of the debate is not the issue but Democrat vs. Republican. I bet half of you reading this are wondering why I put Democrat first. It doesn’t matter, folks. When a huge traffic accident happens and everyone steps in to help, well…that’s just it. Everyone steps in to help.

    The United States is first and foremost a body of land, an environment of plains, mountains, rivers and forests. The only indication that our land is healthy is that its natural inhabitants dwell there. How simple could it be? If people don’t care about conservation, then they don’t care about America. Period. If you don’t believe me try visiting one of the city deserts in the Middle East. There is no life there. Just buildings amidst a garbage dump. What we have in America is really, really special and incredibly easy to ruin forever. We came here and took this country from the Native Americans because it was such a beautiful place. That was a travesty. The least we could do is appreciate the beauty that we stole.

    I’ve been an Obama supporter from the beginning. The poor conservation record really has me extremely unhappy. Is our financial situation so grave that we don’t care about our country? If it is, it hardly matters whether it is Obama or anyone else in office. Start by caring. Then elect someone – anyone – who also cares.

  27. Lynn McGraw

    I am a lifelong Conservative who has supported animal rights since I was a kid. It’s OBVIOUS that we must continue to ride BOTH parties to protect animals and our wildlife.

  28. Peasmould


    Thanks for a great review of Obama’s record on conservation. I certainly agree that it is very disappointing. I am not so sure how much more he could have done, though. He has faced such venomous opposition and such irresponsible behavior on the other side, I think he has done well to do as much as he has.

    At least he has restored more objective science at the government level, so we are facing up to some of these things. Remember Bush? He hired the scientists and lawyers who gave him the answers he wanted, with a total disregard for honesty or objectivity. If he did some of the things you said, the congressional republicans would just have slashed the funding to stop them. Many of them have signed the Koch brothers’ climate organisation’s pledge to never believe humans have anything to do with any climate change! I don’t think many democrats have signed (if any).

    To my mind, all the Republican pledges, especially the Norquist one on no net increase in any taxes, dooms us to spiral into more deficit and more environmental degradation. As long as they sign these things (to get money and support in elections) we can’t have a working democracy. They are in a straitjacket. They can’t negotiate anything meaningful with all the other democratically elected representatives.

    Republicans no longer come to Capitol Hill to negotiate any balanced compromises with democrats. They betray their oath of office every day. Look at Eric Cantor now – for them it is just our way or the highway. It has been one big political “lynch mob” all along anyway. Mitch McConnell admitted after the last election that his primary goal has always been to get Obama out in two years – not do anything for jobs or the environment, nothing to help ordinary Americans.

    Faced with this utter disrespect for democracy on one side, a side willing to play any trick it can to impose its tyranny, Obama and democrats have had to fight just to maintain basic pollution regulations and monitoring at EPA, and many other basic things all totally accepted as good social progress in every other Western developed country. He fought hard to get universal health care, which every other developed country knows is essential to keep a healthy society at reasonable cost. The republicans can’t accept that was a democratic choice when he was elected, and are still vigorously trying to undermine it!

    There is much else too. For example, a highly coordinated effort by every republican governor to break unions in every state where they have a majority … just to cut democratic funding. With all this going on, I think Obama has kept his cool remarkably well. I feel we should pitch in against the real road block, the ways republicans are undermining our fundamental democratic principles. They break their oaths of office every day (two of them even ignored the original swearing in!) and are using every tactic they can to prevent democracy from proceeding.

  29. Michael

    Recognizing Corbin’s point some years ago, I chose to vote for Green Party candidates during the 08 election.

    HOWEVER, no party at present endorses or wholeheartedly supports the issues that Defenders, many of you, or myself, feel of paramount importance.

    Concerning the use of the term,”Left” to describe environmental or ecosystem sensitive issues, I would like to make 2 points:

    1. Political parties
    we may note that many party platforms cannot be successfully implemented, due to conflicting mandates or agendas.

    Greens, for instance, wish for more open immigration. The result of such a stand would be to increase human population and its pressures on the North American ecosystems, already constantly eroded by population increase, growth economics and its American adherent population, the desperate search for more fossil fuels resulting from the confounding by Americans of personal freedom with consumption habits that aggressively diminish all nonhuman life on the planet. Greens have obviously not thought out their platform, and could be no more trusted than Democrats for issues such as reversing ghg emission and global warming, or sacrificing wild lands and species for what they percieve as human welfare.

    Once the republican agenda was to promote wilderness – this was around 1964. NO party can be expected to retain agendas, probably due to their fundraising activities. In other words, political parties inherently pander to wealth.

    It is possible that until or unless citizens recognize that growth must be abandoned, the tragedy of ecosystem destruction and fragmentation leading to inexorable extinction will merely accelerate, as you have now understood through seeing your belief in Obama betrayed.

    The fault, dear Roger, lies not in our parties, but in our embrasure of economic/social paradigm. Social species like ours generate competition for reproductive advantage: both women and men seek higher social status, through exceeding another’s wealth.

    2. “Left” seems to mean supporting an ideal of social equality among humans. This alone means such a philosophy endorses or demands compromise. Under such a philosophy, the natural world will continue to be eroded – destroyed for the “good” of each human.

    Libertarian philosophy, perhaps visualized on the “right”, inevitably leads to privatized policing/security OR to anarchic chaos, creating merely a destructive cycle of repressive government (You are certainly aware that government is defined as the only entity legally empowered to use force). During any libertarian period, all unclaimed biological life is at extreme risk. No ecosystem is safe, no part of Hardin’s “commons” sacrosanct.

    A third philosophy, corporatocracy, you now see, is unresponsive to environmental or human health. Some, as I, recognized that Obama’s administration was corporate-controlled (why otherwise was Salazar put in place?. Other evidence for the corporate agenda being the Democratic one existed before the 08 elections, causing me to never consider supporting Obama, but that’s too lengthy a subject).

    Suffice it to conclude that anyone who wishes to support or defend wildlife, intact ecosystems, and predators reviled by those who might be in the least financially diminished, must, as I do, vote entirely on the issue of protection of wildlife and ecosystems from exploitation or encroachment in this modern world with its overbloomed human population.

    Moreover, we must make clear that this is the vital and only issue upon which we will not compromise.

    Of course, there is no we in I, and each of you must make your own choices. The only actions which have given me any hope at all are the “rewilding” groups working steadily for preservation of ecosystems with wild corridors allowing species migration.

    We are the inheritors of a brain evolved to consider ourselves threatened by larger creatures and forces. During this era such a species-centric viewpoint is utterly and monstrously inappropriate. Even to express such opinions as this has been aggressively attacked by the vast majority of human opinion.
    Therein is the true difficulty.

  30. Michael

    Reading many comments that show insight and help me to retain vestiges of optimism!

    Nader was NOT a “green” (or Green) candidate. He was, is, always has been a consumer advocate, against corporate excess.

    Even Gore who made me excited back in 2000 due to his understanding of science and the worldwide environment, has made the statement we must “protect our way of life.” He may not have sufficiently thought out his goal, unless it is economic, and not finally biocentric.

    Defenders of Wildlife has a wonderful program in which they educate and reimburse ranchers for wolf depredations. This is laudable, and true activism. It avoids mere politics and the betrayal ALWAYS inherent therein.

    The 10% of ranchers who use public lands and have a sense of entitlement to public land due to perhaps 140 years of undisputed fraud, abuse, and continuing lying about their embodiment of an “America” embodying their own self-images, forcefully engage in coalition.
    Trophy hunters, who engage in extremely distorted value-laden beliefs eagerly embrace such coalition, as do any of those who feel their access to and ownership of firearms being threatened by any issue.
    Corporate executives continually pursue profits for investors, and will engage in any coalition that promotes this end.

    Since politics is coalition, I suggest you cease making coalition with any who betray your foremost ideals.

    Only the committed thrive: you have achieved that which you most unreservedly pursued.
    Until and unless you pursue such a goal as one you espouse here, with the same depth of purpose, you are far less likely to succeed.

  31. Karen E Ray

    Obama is not to blame for the wolf management in your state of Idaho, your governor is. Read your Defenders email, it’s been written about for over three years.
    Without knowing your age, let me suggest you read the book entitled “The Population Bomb” written in the 1970s. I like your insight and agree that population is a significant problem, but I see climate change as threat #1 and our Earth’s limited and diminishing fresh water supply as #2 (with the unregulated toxins from fracking looming as a water supply disaster in the U.S.).

  32. Gypsy Lisa

    So many of the comments on this issue of the disappointing Obama administration make so many good points that I would like to thank all of you. Why are we so powerless compared to the religious right wingers who go after homosexuals and abortion more successfully than those who want to keep the planet alive? Why is the NRA more influential than all the environmental groups put together? When did overpopulation become the elephant in the room that no one sees? I can’t help but think about the meaning of the expression “The Grateful Dead.” Seems we didn’t really need a nuclear holocaust to make the planet unliveable; greed, selfishness, and ignorance are doing the job just as well. I don’t know if there is reincarnation, but I’m beginning to hope that if there is, I don’t have to come back here and watch it all diminish more. Yet, I love the place and will continue fighting to hold onto what remains. I guess too many of our fellow citizens think seeing nature on television is as good as being there and that what is captured on film is therefore immortal. How can we mobilize them?

  33. Judy S Richlin

    To everyone on the planet who does nothing but bitterly complain that their particular cause is not being given top priority, open your hearts and minds, please. You are all contributing to the very things that you lament and abhor. I have never in my life (i have lived 56 years) seen such dismal self-centered, self-righteous bickering over what is the ‘most’ important issue of the day. Pull your heads out of the sand. ALL of them are the most important issue! But instead of talking about what ‘We, the people’, could
    possibly do to support your particular concern, you choose to use your energy to complain about what SOMEONE ELSE isn’t doing for your cause. And where has this gotten you? Not anywhere you’d like to be, is my guess, by the tone of your comments. Look to yourselves first, before pointing a finger at someone else’s perceived shortcomings.
    Barak Obama repeatedly said throughout his campaign that he would not be able to achieve the changes we all profess to desire without the help of the people. With the solid support of-at the very LEAST- all of us who voted for him, the things that President Obama can achieve are sadly diminished.
    YOUR disappointed??? Get past your ego and think about how you have all let HIM down. How frustrated and disappointed HE must be after making a pact with his supporters (with all Americans, really)only to find that so many supporters have abandoned him at the first sign of having to make a difficult choice, or face a fierce battle? This man has not changed who he is or what he wants to achieve. He is still the thoughtful, intelligent, CONCERNED man we voted for. He still has hopes of one day leaving the office of the Presidency having made the country stronger and better – for his own family (who he obviously adores – ‘family values’ personified!) and for all families and individuals in our country. Has anyone noticed how grey his hair has become?
    This does not occur, so quickly, to anyone who does not think deeply and care about what is happening in their world. I assure you, President Obama carries a tremendous weight on his shoulders (as have all Presidents) in trying to accomplish the most that he can, as quickly as possible, to alleviate the dire circumstances that so many American citizens find themselves in today. Circumstances he did not create and for which he struggles mightily to amend.
    My own circumstances are greatly reduced, yet i consider myself fortunate because i still have a home and can buy food and pay my bills and i still have access to healthcare through insurance. Many are not so fortunate and i remember that every single day, and i worry and i pray that those less fortunate can somehow hang on while President Obama fights with dissenters in his own party(!) and contends with supporters who have abandoned him because they second-guess him on everything he does if it doesn’t jive with what they think he should be attending to FIRST.
    And i haven’t even mentioned the opposing party, yet!
    I know many decent, caring, intelligent Republicans who are not at all happy with some of the tactics being used by a small contingent of their representatives. I am talking about party representatives who have nothing on their agenda but to bring down the Democratic Party and/or President Obama. They will do ANYTHING – even if it adversely affects the country as a whole – to vilify and block any issue that President Obama and the Democratic Party offers a solution for. And they are totally ruthless in their pernicious methods of achieving their dishonorable ends. I do not malign the Republican Party as a whole, just those who have no interest in truly aiding the country in becoming a home where no citizen must suffer privation. As a country, we have the means to achieve this. Why haven’t we?
    I believe it is because we still choose the easy course of looking outward for scapegoats rather than looking within ourselves to gain awareness and understanding in order to change the circumstances for the better for all that we are connected to – which is ALL things.
    There is a new energy of cooperation that has been springing up around the globe. Stop. Look. Listen. Learn what is truly needed from each of us to create a world where we can all find contentment. Empower your self. Blessings of Love and great Joy…

  34. Don Lipmanson

    American’s dysfunctional political system reflects our destructive consumerist values, our national feeling of entitlement, the crazy notion that “God” gave people dominion over nature and the current obsession with finding meaning and values in computers and “smartphones” instead of looking to the natural world. We just don’t have the collective intelligence, education or commitment to change our way of living that might avert the collapse described by the Erlichs, Jared Diamond and Tim Flannery.

    Regardless of whether Obama’s “enlightened” cowardice prevails over the Tea Party’s ignorant bravado, the next election is just a temporary distraction from the approaching tragic outcome: ecosystem collapse, mass starvation and endless wars over the spoils.

  35. Donna Farrow

    President Obama has left all of us who care about our environmental and wildlife futures HOPE-less. That he cannot see or doesn’t care to see what Salazar has done is proof that he doesn’t care. I voted for President Obama and now I see that his running mate should have been Palin! I have written to my Senator (Kyl) many times regarding wildlife issues, especially wolves and guess what he’s the not only supported (S.249) he co-sponsored the bill that has left our wolves in absolute peril, siting “special interest groups” as the problem. I think the problem is that we the people are on our own and without representation. This is indeed a sad time for our country.

  36. Rick

    I’ve been an Interior Department employee for over a decade, and I can sadly say from extensive personal knowledge and experience that the high level of incompetence, corruption, and anti-environmental actions that was so prevalent during the Bush administration has largely continued unabated during the Obama administration. Obama and Salazar are good at talking a progressive talk, but I’ve seen virtually no tangible evidence that they are willing or able to walk that talk. I’ve largely given up hope that I will live long enough to ever truly see “change we can believe in.”

  37. Cherie

    ok well at least he’s doing something about illegal guns give him that…who would you rather see in the White House him Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin?????…those two womem are a nightmare huh???…he can still turn it around on conservation I say even though you might say I stupid dumb Pollyannaish…I say he doing the best he can….I mean he got that meanie Osama bin Laden doesn’t that count for something???????

  38. Tom

    I will not vote for Obama again. I can’t vote for a Republican, but I won’t vote for Obama. It will be the first presidential I have failed to vote in since the 1960s.

  39. Patricia Davis Chang

    First of all, reputable environmental organizations need to put aside any territorial differences and jealousies, take a survey among their members to see how many will and will NOT vote for Obama, and what their views are on his environmental record. Obama has obviously ignored environmental concerns, because he does not see environmentalists as a massive block of voters with clout. He gets big campaign donations from Nuclear Energy, Wall Street and other corporate Fat Cats, hoping to keep him subservient to them. They have succeeded. The proof is in the pudding. Until Obama realizes he is destroying his voting base, he will continue to ignore or even harm environmental interests.He needs to see that campaign donations are useless, if the people who once supported him are in the majority, and refuse to vote for him or are on the fence about him. He must look at it in hard, cold numbers.I see from many of the replies here, that his lies, spins and arrogance are costing him votes. I won’t be voting for him, not only because of his terrible environmental record, but also his human rights record, and his willingness to sell Senior Citizens down the river. The people who support these causes, the people who depend on Social Security and Medicare, are a huge voting block. He can wave his campaign dollars at us, but that will not guarantee that decent, conscientious voters will vote for him. The arguement that he is better than the Republicans is specious. I am not sure that he is. Many of his supposed reforms are giveaways to big business. He has reneged on so many campaign promises, I have lost count. His lack of spine and leadership are as bad as Republican insanity. I see us being led down the garden path one way or the other. We either go down it a little slower or a bit faster. This country must wake up to the fact that both parties are badly corrupt,(with few exceptions), our government is broken, and we need a viable, strong Third Party. Until that happens, and we throw the bums out, our choices are not choices at all.

  40. Corbin

    You seem to be missing the point, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

    You also seem to believe that you were duped? The democratic party has been republican light since Goldwater. Why is it that seemingly intelligent democrats just don’t pay attention to what their leaders do and when they wake up for a half second they cry foul. Obama is just business as usual for the dems.

    Your choice between Obama and Palin? Wouldn’t it have been Mccain? Either way Palin, Rommney, Bachman, Pelosi, Clinton….etc… honestly what difference will we see? Guantanamo still open under whatever regime, at war with the whole world, at war with our poor, destruction of our environment, destruction of our civil liberties, etc etc… either candidate would do these things, it is just natural to them.

    One final note. Under Bill Clinton does anyone really believe that the CIA etc didnt torture people? Our system is broken, it has always been broken. A full read of US history will show that clearly. Voting for any Democrat ever is a waste, even though there are a few good ones.

  41. Josie Downey

    As a life long animal rights activist and environmenalist, I will not vote for that dishonorable liar, Obama, in 2012. No democrat has ever betrayed the environmentalists and animal rights activists as President Obama. He is worse than a being a liar, he is truly incompetent. For the first time in fifty years, I will not vote in 2012 for a democrat or republican. Our wildlife will all be extinct by then. I will tell my grandchildren that Obama is responsible for a “DEAD PLANET>”

  42. Sam

    And so, you would have preferred Clinton, I guess? Who was on the board of directors of Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, both with their strong pro-animal rights and pro-environmental records. The unfortunate truth is that there is never going to be a voice for progressives in this country, and there will be no way to affect elections unless there is a constitutional amendment to take personhood away from corporations and restrict the influence of corporate lobbyists. And that’s not going to happen either.

    • Luuh

      The President of the USA is the face of our country and the ELECTED leaedr of our country. They are responsible for everything. And I’m not holding anyone else accountable for this traveshamockery of an economy other than BUSH!

  43. VT Granny

    Neither Rodger’s article nor the comments take account of the sad fact that from Day One of the Obama administration, he has faced an intractable Republican party that can, and has, shut down any progressive move that Obama might make on any issue. During the first two years when Democrats held a majority in the House and Senate, the Republican Senate came up with its “supermajority” trick, whereby 60 votes were REQUIRED to get anywhere with any legislation. No matter how aggressive Obama might have been in seeking legislation, the Senate Republican minority could prevent passage. There are times when things are hopeless, and this has been the case with the Republican Party all over the US. Now, with the Republican House in control of spending, things are going from bad to worse. These people are insane. They’re evil. They do not believe in science. It must be said.

    For sure, Democrats often leave a lot to be desired. But to think it makes no difference which party is in power is demonstrably false! With Republicans in charge of even one house of Congress, you see how bad things are. Imagine if they controlled the Senate and the presidency, too. How many wolves or polar bears would they be saving? Would they take any steps to curb global warming, which they don’t accept anyway? Alternative energy? Only if it benefits their patrons in Big Oil and Big Coal.

  44. Mary B

    I voted for Obama, actually gave money for his campaign. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.I’ve voted Republican, Democrat, I guess I’ll try Libertarian next. Obama is nothing more than a Republican in Democratic clothing. Which makes him a hypocritical liar.He proved it when he gave all that money to the banks and Wall Street. Now he wants to take away all environmental protections, social security, and other interests of the middle class. I’m tired of supporting the upper and lower classes and having the environment destroyed. I will send the money for campaign funding to Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, League for Animal Defense, etc, and he can ask his bank and Wall Street buddies for money.

  45. Dennis

    I am thoroughly disgusted with this clown, Obama. He does not have a clue about wildlife, balance in the ecosystem, or the importance of saving what is left of our wild heritage. How were we duped into electing him? He is an inner city politician who has no grasp of the issues that we care about. Gore would have been great. So would Kerry. But no, the American people picked Bush, the worst president in history, then this guy. I would love to throw him out. I would love to put up a different candidate, but of course that won’t happen. Democrats seem to have no spirit, no backbone, no vision, no courage. Instead, they apologize for backing progressive ideas, then cave in to conservative ideology every time, and our “leader” gladly kisses neocon butt for reasons that still continue to elude me. It’s sickening.

  46. Eric

    To dismiss the 3rd parties, such as the Green Party, is a big mistake. As it is a grave error to blame Nadar and the Green party for Bush II being elected. First of all, Nadar did not cost the 2000 election. It was Florida and Ohio, neither of which Nadar had much support in. Furthermore, don’t forget that millions of people still voted for Bush. Gore ran a terrible campaign, and was not able to convince people to vote for him instead of that bumbling idiot who could barely put together a coherent sentence in English. Plus, if you restrict people to voting for Dems or Republicans, then we are truly a oligarchy. 3rd parties have always played a key part in US politics. In fact the Dems and Republicans were both once 3rd parties.

    But as most people point out, they are no different anymore. The Dems merely give empty rhetoric to the left, and like fools we fall for it. We convince ourselves that we are choosing the lesser of two evils. And then we get people like Obama, who is no better than Bush. And then we throw our hands up in the air and say either that we will not vote at all (which does no good at all), or we will continue to vote for the Dems because we can’t risk a Republican coming to power. This is a vicious cycle and will continue until the left wakes up and realizes we HAVE to go with a 3rd party.

    Yes we can focus on the atate and local levels, but the sad fact is federal law trumps state law. So even if you get states to pass liberal laws/ordinances, if they pass a federal law it overrides the state laws. We do need to focus on state/local laws, such as the Oregon wolf issue. But we cannot neglect federal politics.

    Until the left unites and backs a 3rd party, the right will control our government, whether through a Democrat or a Republican. It is as simple as that.

    On a quick note(as a historian) we must remmber that the President is not the most powerful member of the government. It is Congress. The Founding Fathers designed it so. So despite the fact that Obama is a horrible president, he has had all the Dems in Congress (except for a select few who have remianed liberal) backing him. You can have the worst president in the world, and he/she can only do so much. Without Congress, they could not do much. We need to focus on recliaming Congress more than the White House.

  47. Sebastian

    3rd party? Only because of the 2001 Election Horror I feel it must be said again: Without Nader/ 3rd Party, we would not have had the current Noghtmarish Supreme Court. And its horrible pro industry antienvironment decisions. We would not have had the enormous giveaways to corrupt corporations. We would not have had the top secret meeting between the vice president – Cheney – and the heads of the Energy Industry( We might not have had the Gulf crisis, btw.). We probably would not have had that so costly, unnecessary, so fraudulently based war with Iraq. We might not have even had 911 ( I mean this sincerely: Gore would have been on the job. Bush never bothered. Recall the memo that lay on W’s desk for 7 days prior to 911? Point is, we did not really Have a “president” back then.)

    The point is: Without the Nader drain, we would not have had W. There would have been no Bush policy for Obama to continue. Al Gore was as close to an Environmentalist as any National leader could be. Nader’s attacks on Gore’s environmental record should have sounded a warning. And the warnings from Nader’s former inner circle – “Nader’s Raders” – that we should Not throw away our votes on Nader – should have clinched it. Instead, Bush slinked into Office, and the rest is a grotesquely horrible history.

    No. Republicans and democrats are the same in many ways.

    But never ever was Al Gore “the same ” as W.

    And, however abhorrent his policies, Obama ain’t really the same as say, Palin.

    If we want to vote 3rd Party, make dam’ well sure we are not repeating 2001.

  48. Heather Rudin

    Rodger is right on track as are many of the comments. Obama lied through his teeth on every issue as he flip-flopped on everything. I read Ken Salazar’s bio when he was appointed and couldn’t believe this man was going to head the Dept. of the Interior. And his first act was to go after the wolves! He must be a close friend of Gov. Otter (Idaho). Indeed, Obama’s entire cabinet (except Hillary Clinton) seems to be composed of misfits. The Republican onslaught to dismantle legislation that protects our people, wildlife and land is in large part the payback to the rich supporters of the GOP (should stand for Government Opposition Party). When the Republicans took over, Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), who now heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Cmte., sent out almost 200 letters to the “special interest” supporters, asking what they needed the GOP to do. Well, he got the shopping list and the destruction of our country went into full swing. Most Americans don’t have a clue as to what’s going on; we have to get these stories on television as people still use it as their main source of information. Be it ads or news or political programs (except FOX) we have to reach more people before it’s too late. The Democrats, who messed up big time, better stop cowering and start talking. Have they forgotten how to hold a news conference? The stakes are too high for silence and Obama certainly isn’t going to come to our rescue!

  49. John Helak

    While President Obama was Senator Obama, his biggest political contributors were utility companies. He went out of his way for them because he understood the quid pro quo of the situation. Our voices may be more passionate, our numbers may be greater, but bucks for Obama come from deeper pockets than we have, even collectively. He never impressed me as someone who was strong for the environment and other than his appointment of Lisa Jackson at the EPA (not a cabinet level position), his other appointments bear out my feelings. He may have been a good choice as president, but not for Defenders and other similar organizations.


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