5 Wild Places President Obama Should Protect Before He Leaves Office

Before he leaves office, President Obama has the opportunity to safeguard some of America’s most important wild lands against oil drilling, coal mining, clearcutting, fracking and other destruction.

These are public lands that you and I and all of the American people own. They contain some of our country’s richest natural heritage, from spectacular migratory birds to soaring mountain ranges to searing deserts to coastal areas teeming with whales, turtles and other sea life. But unless they’re protected as federal wilderness or national monuments, they remain susceptible to industrialization and human activities.

During an excursion to Yosemite, President Obama recalled how much he treasured his own memories of being out in nature and acknowledged that he could play an important role in protecting our public lands.

“We can’t treat these things as something that we deal with later,” he said. “On this issue, unlike a lot of issues, there’s such a thing as being too late.”

With that in mind, here are five wild places the President should put on the top of his list to protect before he leaves office.

Cloudy mountains in ANWR

1) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge hosts 200 species of migratory birds, as well as more than 250 species of bears, arctic foxes, Dall sheep, moose, wolverines and muskoxen. Its famous Porcupine Caribou Herd births its thousands of calves on the Refuge’s Coastal Plain between May and July every year. Polar bears build dens in the Refuge to give birth to their young as well.

Established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960, at almost 20 million acres, the Arctic Refuge is the largest unit in the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. Unfortunately, being a wildlife refuge does not protect a place from development that can destroy its wilderness values. In particular, the Coastal Plain remains open to oil drilling. Given how much arctic ice is melting already, subjecting the Coastal Plain to additional development that would threaten this fragile ecosystem is untenable. Alaska Wilderness League is leading a coalition of environmental, scientific and native groups to encourage President Obama to recognize the Refuge’s unique attributes and give it the strongest protection possible.

Bears Ears UtahPhoto by Flickr user brewbooks

2) Bears Ears in Utah

Sacred. Verdant. Roughhewn. Ancient. These are the words used to describe the Bears Ears, two dramatic buttes towering high over Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. Magical for their natural mystery, revered by tribal peoples who rely on them for subsistence, spirituality, healing and contemplation, the Bears Ears need protection from looting, reckless tourists, uranium and tar sands mining and even high-speed off-road vehicle driving that literally tears up the landscape.

A coalition of  Indian tribes including the Hopi, Zuni, Ute and Navajo, supported by environmental groups and concerned citizens, is urging President Obama to designate 1.9 million acres of these public lands as a National Monument. Doing so will not only preserve the nature of the place, but its cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, Ice Age hunting camps and rock art panels as well.

PEW Charitable Trusts

PEW Charitable Trusts

3) Cranberry Wilderness Area and other regions of Monongahela National Forest 

Within the proposed 75,000 acres of terrain citizens hope President Obama designates a national monument are the likes of the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, the largest area of bogs in West Virginia. Though bogs are more commonly found in Maine and Canada, their existence in West Virginia means they enrich the biodiversity of this part of the United States. Not only are there plants like Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Indian Pipe, Trillium and Trout Lily, but there are also carnivorous or insect-eating plants, as well. In other parts of this region, mountains soar to as high as 4,600 feet, the William River and the Cranberry River flow, and a black bear sanctuary helps protect bears as well as mink, bobcats and foxes.

Grand Canyon National Park

4) The Grand Canyon

Believe it or not, the Grand Canyon, one of America’s crown jewels, is not protected from uranium mining and other destructive development. The PEW Charitable Trusts U.S. Public Lands program is strongly recommending national monument designation for the greater Grand Canyon region to permanently safeguard 1.7 million acres of public lands there. In addition to containing a watershed that provides drinking water for millions of people, the Grand Canyon has a unique cultural heritage, brimming with sacred tribal sites and other historic artifacts. Plus, protecting it as a national monument would create a safe migration corridor that would enable wildlife to move unencumbered between the Canyon and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Bald River Upper Falls

5) Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee

Activists have been trying for over a decade to preserve almost 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness. Doing so would keep the area’s watershed safe while protecting habitat for black bears, bobcats, gray foxes and white-tailed deer. Plus, the region is an important migratory route for a variety of birds, some of which breed and overwinter there. In addition, the area’s location in the southern Appalachian mountains would no doubt attract millions of visitors from across the East Coast, South and Midwest U.S.



Support Tennessee Wilderness and Protect Our Wildlife and Outdoor Heritage Petition
Here’s What the Proposal to Protect Millions of Acres of Alaskan Wilderness Looks Like


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeramie D.
Jeramie D2 years ago

Sure hope he does.

Wendi M.
Wendi M2 years ago

TYFS So true and important

Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Work for more lucky ones

Leo Custer
Leo C2 years ago

thank you for the information!

David M.
David M2 years ago

He should do it; those are interesting places, but basically all remaining wild places should be protected, even expanded to be similar to millennia ago. It may seem difficult, but I think it's all possible with an improvement of economics.

Anne F.
Anne F2 years ago

do stand for protecting the confluence of rivers in Arizona