I’m Thankful For… Wildlife and Wilderness

A Thanksgiving series from the Center for Biological Diversity (Part 3 of 3)

For many, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and give thanks, and this series highlights a few of the things that make the Center’s Population and Sustainability team thankful. However, while we are giving thanks, we should not forget that this holiday is rooted in colonialism and oppression which is still being fought today. We stand with indigenous people in their fight.

I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in the wild this year. My love of nature drove me to live in the woods outside of the tiny mountain town of Mount Shasta. Here, I wake to magnificent peaks where the Klamath Mountains meet the Cascades. My neighbors are black bears, cougars, deer, hawks, snakes and trout. From the heart of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, I am thankful for the legal protections that preserve one of the most biologically diverse populations of wild plants and animals in the Pacific Northwest. But these beautiful public lands, here and across the country, are under threat of exploitation from the incoming Trump administration.

Life in the wilderness is precious, whether it’s the egret soaring above as I swim in the cold waters of an alpine lake, or the howling yip of coyotes; the stunning scarlet and gold beauty of the Columbia silkworm moth who rests on my front door; the warm caramel smells of ponderosa pines mixed with the incense of cedar, manzanita and bitterbrush; or the fairy-like twinkle of light dancing over crashing waterfalls. Clean water abounds here… but it is drained, dammed, bottled, sold and sent to the rest of the state for commercial and industrial purposes.

We have a right to free clean water and unpolluted air, forests, rivers and deserts — as do wildlife. There are places where wildlife should be free from human influence and industry. The 1964 Wilderness Act recognized the value of preserving “an area where the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Yet these rights are often silenced by the dominating forces of industry.

With a Republican-dominated government, the environmental movement faces a policy change like we haven’t seen in 50 years. Except back then, when landmark laws like the Environmental Protection Act were passed, it was a positive change to save the wilderness. Now many of those policies — and the animals and places they were created to protect — are at risk.

Already things look bleak for wildlife, for wilderness and for the planet. Republicans in Congress boast of their plan to lift regulations on pollution for industrial agriculture, remove protections for vulnerable ecosystems, and expand public lands leasing for fossil fuels exploitation rather than explore alternative clean energies. Everything the Center for Biological Diversity, where I work, fights so hard for will be under siege in the new year.

Trump has even suggested Sarah Palin for secretary of the interior — which would put the Alaskan pro oil-drilling, helicopter-hunter-of-endangered-wolves in charge of the protection of imperiled animals and the fragile wilderness areas they need to thrive.

So what can do we do? Let us begin by celebrating our love for the Earth and its wildlife. We must treasure the very concept of nature and of the wild — and ensure our attitudes about the nonhuman world and the places wild animals inhabit include the rights of protection. This means fighting to keep our environmental laws in place and strengthening their enforcement. It also means a fundamental adjustment to the ways we think about our lives, including sex and food — our reproductive rates and unsustainable, meat-heavy eating habits put enormous pressure on the planet.

For suggestions on how to rewild your diet with wildlife-friendly meals, visit TakeExtinctionOffYourPlate.com and our Choose Wild board of extinction-free recipes.

Jennifer Molidor is the senior food campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity.

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