Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | June 2, 2011

Protecting Wilderness Gifts from God

Bristlecones near Keynot Peak in Inyo Mountain wilderness.

Last December, when the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Secretary issued Order 3310: Protecting Wilderness Characteristics on Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, those who care for God’s Creation felt encouraged. The order moved to renew and reclaim wilderness protection standards that had been upheld by the five presidential administrations preceding the George W. Bush administration. Secretary Salazar’s Order 3310 made important moves to reclaim God’s wild lands as sacred sanctuaries of all God called “good.” Yesterday, however, Secretary Salazar released a memo that has left God’s lands’ protection in a state of uncertainty. It is unclear whether wilderness characteristics of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management will be preserved. (See a map showing Bureau of Land Management areas here.)  Read Secretary Salazar’s June 1 memo here. Recognizing the need for people of faith to speak out, the National Council of Churches invites you to sign on to the letter below.   Sign the petition here.

Dear President Obama, Secretary Salazar, Secretary Vilsack, and Senators,

As people of faith, we understand Creation as the opportunity to be surrounded by the work and being of God. The network of wild lands throughout the United States provides congregations and communities the opportunity to experience God, and to dwell in the beauty of all that God called “good.” As people of faith, we seek to live out our call as stewards of Creation through efforts to protect and maintain God’s great Creation. Through effective and collaborative work we can and must protect these places of intimate connection with God for all generations, and protect these vital pieces of God’s Creation.

Lands, wilderness, and open spaces have played a vital role in the spiritual journeys of Biblical peoples from Moses to Jesus Christ. Lands are an essential part of God’s Creation. Through them, God nourishes life; provides the foundation of terrestrial ecosystems and human communities; supplies blessings of sustenance like soil, water, timber, and minerals; and offers natural space for prayer and spiritual renewal. Stewardship of the lands and wild places God has entrusted to our care is a critical part of our call to protect Creation. In a world broken by strife, public lands offer beautiful places to heal and invigorate the soul, which can be enjoyed by people for generations to come.

The public lands in the U.S. embody the ideals of cooperation, community, equitable sharing of God’s bounty for the common good, and preserving the whole of Creation entrusted to our care. Public lands, if cared for appropriately, help us answer God’s call to equality among people by providing shared benefits that nurture our communities. But many of these lands – and the life that depends on them – are endangered by human negligence and abuse. As these threats to God’s gifts become more pronounced, our need to become educated and involved becomes more immediate.

As part of our call to be stewards of Creation, we have a duty to recognize the importance of the lands that the Lord has provided and minimize our impact, manage it so that it serves the good of all, and protect it for future generations and for all life. It is in this spirit that we ask you to work for protection and upkeep of the Lord’s lands and wild places. By protecting these places, we will ensure homes for many of God’s creatures as well as the ability to immerse oneself in the glory and goodness of God’s Creation.

Sign the petition here.

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