Obama’s environmental legacy
America has some stunning national parks: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Sequoia. And no one deserves more credit for championing the cause of preserving America’s wild heritage than president Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt was inspired to set aside huge tracts of land as protected natural areas, such as those three parks I just mentioned, after being struck by the incredible beauty of the American West.
This month, another president who played a significant role in creating national parks will be leaving office. On January twentieth, a new president will be sworn into office, and Obama will return to private life, leaving behind a legacy as one of the great conservationist presidents in America’s history.
Obama’s legacy in this area isn’t discussed that often, but it is impressive. Obama has officially designated more land for national parks than even Roosevelt, and the land he has protected includes the second largest desert reserve in the world and the two largest marine reserves.
Obama has focused heavily on limiting the ability of oil companies to drill in protected areas as well as to expand offshore drilling. In December, he signed a ban on offshore drilling on the coasts of Alaska for five years. And Obama’s commitment to preventing climate change led to him overseeing the signing of the Paris Agreements that hopefully will prove to be a landmark agreement.
Environmental groups have generally had a positive view towards the way that Obama has worked to protect the environment. In each of his presidential campaigns, he got the endorsements of many of the largest environmental groups.
There has been some criticism of his environmental policy, however. Groups like the Sierra Club have pointed out that his decisions to be involved with coal companies and reluctance to take public stands against fracking for oil are not positive developments for the environment.
On the obverse, business interests have criticized Obama for environmental actions that limit the ability to exploit fossil fuel reserves and expand businesses, as well as limiting the number of people who have access to electrical power.
Obama has focused on creating clean electrical power in the past, having developed the “Clean Power Plan,” which was designed to encourage energy companies to limit their environmental impact, particularly carbon emissions. As of the moment, the plan is stalled in court as the supreme court considers the constitutionality of some of its provisions.
Obama has also focused on protecting wildlife, having passed off on reform of the Endangered Species Act and adding seven-hundred new species to the list of animals that are federally protected. Though he also received criticism for the removal of the Grey Wolf from the list of endangered species.
Ultimately, Obama’s legacy is one of the great environmental presidents may be unraveled to some degree by the incoming president, Donald Trump, who is an outspoken opponent of conservation efforts. So, in the end, the preservation of Obama’s environmental legacy may depend on how willing the average voter is to defend it.