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Local, regional conservation leaders call Biden’s inauguration a ‘promising day’

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 20, 2021

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders, including an action to rejoin the Paris Agreement, on Wednesday in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C.  (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders, including an action to rejoin the Paris Agreement, on Wednesday in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Local and regional conservation leaders praised the inauguration of President Joe Biden, calling Wednesday a “promising day.”

Jerry White, the Spokane Riverkeeper, called President Donald Trump’s administration a “dark age for the water world.” In particular, he decried a federal rollback of PCB standards.

“It is exciting to have a new President who will take action on climate change, reverse some of the damage to our environmental laws (like the National Environmental Policy Act), and bring science back into public policy decisions,” said Mike Petersen, the executive director of the Lands Council. “Locally, I hope the Environmental Protection Agency will work with the Spokane River Regional Toxic Task Force to reduce PCBs coming into our community and not relax water quality standards.”

Others echoed Petersen’s comments and praised the U.S. decision to rejoin the Paris Accords, one of Biden’s first actions as president.

“We’re sure hoping that a new EPA will return to science-based policy and self-correct by returning the rigorous standards for healthy waterways,” White said.

Mitch Friedman, the executive director of Conservation Northwest, said he was moved by Biden’s speech, which “spoke to our better angels, reminding us that our democracy provides the opportunity to succeed together through shared awareness of truth and the earnest search for common solutions.”

Specifically, Friedman said he looks forward to the new administration “taking a shot at providing jobs while addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs” and improving forest health.

“This can not only improve our energy efficiency but directly benefit nature with things like jobs in the woods to improve forest resilience to wildlife crossings on highways,” Friedman said in an email.

He added, “Government should be a partner to public needs, not a pariah. So our forests, streams and wildlife should all benefit from an administration that believes in good governance.”

Phil Hough, the executive director of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, said every new administration brings “fresh hope for the opportunities that lie ahead,” and he urged the new administration to work hand-in-hand with Republicans.

“Lasting public lands conservation gains, including Wilderness designation are achieved with broad support from the community and many local interests that cut across party lines,” Hough said in an email.

Brad Smith, the North Idaho director of the Idaho Conservation League, applauded Biden’s steps to reduce carbon emissions, but was also quick to emphasize that lasting conservation work requires cooperation.

“Residents of the Northwest are all too aware of how global warming is resulting in longer fire seasons, reduced snowpack and loss of fish and wildlife,” he said in an email. “A new administration may be in the White House, but our approach does not change. ICL still must work with indigenous tribes, marginalized communities, state and local government officials, industry, and other diverse interests to solve the environmental problems that we face in Idaho.”

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