by Tommy Hough
When it comes to conservation, the U.S. doesn't do a bad job. California in particular has long been a national leader, and innovator, in preserving ecosystems and large swaths of the environment as parks and wilderness. Perhaps only in a nation as large and rich as the United States, with such abundant natural heritage, could these ideas have so successfully taken root.
But we've arrived in an era where daily assaults are being made from the halls of Congress on long-standing, constructive environmental policy that has benefited all Americans, and generations of Californians have come of age who don't remember – and have no connection to – the struggles that set these special places aside to begin with.
For many Californians, there's permanence in the rot-resistant forests of the Redwoods and the sculpted granite of Yosemite. There should be. The only natural enemy of the Redwoods is the greed of mankind. And it was only through the dogged persistence of thoughtful individuals and organizations that the Redwoods were not laid to waste by logging, and Yosemite was spared the indignities of freeways, tract housing and "extreme recreation."
There's a feeling too that places like Torrey Pines or Anza-Borrego have always been there as beacons of conservation, and a bulwark against development. But it was only through determined, citizen-led grassroots efforts demanding protection that both those locales were set aside, along with Palomar Mountain, as state parks in 1933.
It is telling, and says something about the abilities of those organizations and the character of government at the time, that in 1933 – in the midst of the nation's worst financial crisis – California and the nation were willing to afford protection and responsible management to endangered areas with the power and resources only good government can muster.
It is an example that continues today when a president sets aside National Monuments, or when communities come together to say no to a freeway through a park, a nuclear power plant in a canyon, or running roughshod over wildlife habitat with an overabundance of fracking towers and energy "farms."
We have too many leaders willing to craft legislation based on short-term selfishness and AM radio talking points. We need elected officials, media pundits, surrogates, voices of reason – and ultimately, us – to take action and push back against those darker impulses, and continue leading in the spirit of responsible, quality government on all fronts. It is up to us to speak truth loudly to power, and ensure those "better angels" come to pass.
A San Diego County planning commissioner and former radio host and media personality, Tommy Hough works as an environmental consultant and communications professional, and is a California Democratic Party delegate and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.