Opinion: Help protect an amazing ecosystem and free carbon sink

Mar 11, 2021
In The News

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) which lives up to its name, would protect the best functioning ecosystems and wildlands in the Rockies. On March 10th, Representative Carolyn Maloney along with 40 cosponsors, including AOC and Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, reintroduced NREPA in the U.S. House of Representatives.

NREPA was written by scientists and citizens from the Northern Rockies including Dr. John Craighead. Dr. Craighead was named by National Geographic as one of the top 100 scientists of the 20th century.

23 million acres of new wilderness

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act would: designate all of the inventoried roadless areas in the Northern Rockies as wilderness, protecting approximately 23 million acres of land that is home to a vital ecosystem and watersheds in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Eastern Washington, and Oregon.

Biological corridors

NREPA establishes a system to connect biological corridors, preserving the migration patterns and habitat s of native plants and animals and allowing this ecosystem to flourish. It also preserves swaths of forest biomes that are carbon sinks to counteract greenhouse gas emissions.

Water

NREPA designates about 1,800 miles of rivers and streams as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Water is the lifeblood of the West and we need to protect it. By protecting the forests that shade snow high in the mountains, NREPA also keeps wat er’s beneficial uses available downstream until later in the season when it is most needed by protecting the forests that shade the snow high in the mountains.

Creates thousands of new jobs

Much like the great work done by the revered Civilian Conservation Corps, NREPA puts 2300 people to work at the prevailing wage restoring over one million acres of damaged habitat and watersheds by restoring clearcuts and removing 6300 miles of old logging roads.

Saves money

NREPA saves the federal government millions of dollars annually by reducing wasteful subsidies to the logging industry. It also closes unintended legal loopholes, that have left many of the areas protected by the Clinton Roadless Rule vulnerable to clearcutting and roadbuilding.

Free carbon capture

“Our forests and grasslands are one of our nation’s greatest treasures and one of the most effective natural carbon captures that exist to help combat the effects of climate change,” Secretary Vilsack recently said. NREPA battles climate change by permanently protecting roadless lands as Wilderness, which is one of our Nation’s best and most effective tools for reducing global warming. National Forests absorb an astounding 12 percent of the carbon that America creates for free and our unlogged and old-growth forests absorb the most carbon.

Protects habitat to keep species from going extinct

NREPA reduces species loss and conflict by protecting the remaining habitat for native species in the Northern Rockies that were here when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through and are still present more than 200 years later. Wildlife populations cannot survive for long periods of time on isolated islands of habitat. Populations eventually become genetically weaken and suffer from inbreeding effects. Protecting these lands will help recover threatened and endangered species including bull trout, lynx, and grizzly bears as well as wolverine, fisher and many other species currently facing inbreeding and, ultimately, extinction due to the lack of connecting corridors. If we pass an ecosystem bill like NREPA, Western North America offers us one of the best opportunities to halt or stop what has been termed the Earth’s “sixth great extinction event.”

Summary

NREPA protects the environment, fights climate change, creates jobs, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars in logging subsidies simply by designating existing roadless areas as Wilderness. Please ask your congressional delegation to support the one proposal that promises to give future generations a chance to enjoy the diverse wildlife, clean rivers, and majestic forested landscapes that were handed down to all Americans by generations past. Only NREPA does that. Please help us protect one of the best ecosystems in the lower 48 states before it is too late.