MagazineJuly 2009Obama and the Outdoors

Obama and the Outdoors

Administration’s First Six Months Provides Mixed Reviews on Key Outdoor Issues

 A healthy, intact Appalachian forest...decimated by mountaintop removal.
A healthy, intact Appalachian forest...decimated by mountaintop removal.

Obama has done more to move America toward a clean energy future in six months than has been done in the previous six decades. However, Obama also has disappointed many in the Southeast by investing $2.4 billion in so-called “clean coal” technologies and allowing mountaintop removal mining to continue across Appalachia. Here’s a rundown of Obama’s most promising and frustrating decisions so far.


Land Preservation
Obama gave a swift signature to the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The new law designated two million acres of Wilderness in nine states, including 50,000 acres in Virginia and 37,000 acres in West Virginia.

Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is a lifeline for more than 17 million people in six states. Urban sprawl, pollution from outdated sewage treatment plants, and agricultural runoff have led to oxygen-depleted dead zones in the Bay, causing drastic declines in fish, crabs, and aquatic life. In May, Obama ordered the EPA to oversee the key waterway’s survival. In establishing America’s largest estuary as a “National Treasure,” he directed the EPA to “make full use of its authorities under the Clean Water Act to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters.”

Green Jobs
Obama included approximately $100 billion in stimulus funds for clean energy incentives and the creation of green jobs. The plan is to boost domestic industry and manufacturing with energy-efficient construction and upgrades, along with new smart grid and mass transit projects.

Endangered Species
In March Obama overturned a last-minute Bush Administration attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act. Obama also joined an international pact to cut mercury emissions—the first global environmental treaty that the U.S. has entered in a decade.


Domestic Drilling
Obama continues to support offshore drilling to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Although he temporarily suspended Bush’s five-year domestic offshore oil drilling plan, most expect Obama to include offshore drilling in his energy plans.

Perpetuating Dirty Coal Dependence

Obama continues to tout so-called “clean coal”— an economic and environmental disaster. Even if overpriced carbon sequestration is fully developed, it would only address one of the many health and environmental problems caused by coal. Last month, Obama earmarked $2.4 billion for  so-called “clean coal” technology development, and he has renewed plans for his home state’s FutureGen Carbon Capture and Storage Plant—a project that was even too expensive for the Bush Administration.

Mountaintop Removal Mining
Obama approved 42 new mountaintop removal permits in the Southeast and decided to “regulate” mountaintop removal rather than end it. EPA leader Lisa Jackson temporarily halted all new mountaintop removal permits, but Obama ultimately allowed all but six permits to proceed.

Places to Go, Things to See: