NCC Brings Awareness to Environmental Conservation for Lent

A shot of the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness in Arizona, just 65 miles west of Phoenix. (Photo: National Landscape Conservation System)

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is giving a Lenten charge to its affiliates to support the protection of natural areas in the Western United States.

The NCC's Eco-Justice Programs has re-launched a petition urging members of Congress to support the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), which encompasses some 27 million acres of forests, deserts, mountains, and wilderness in states like Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and others.

"Lands, wilderness, and open spaces have always been central to the Judeo-Christian tradition, playing a vital role in the spiritual journeys of Biblical individuals from Moses to Jesus Christ," the petition reads.

The call comes just days after President Obama made his request to appropriate $1.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2013 to the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the NLCS and about 230 million acres of other natural terrain.

BLM Director Bob Abbey noted last week that while Federal spending should be "restrained" in the current economic climate, "tough choices" need to be made in order to protect America's assets, of which public lands and resources are some of the "greatest."

"Under this budget proposal we target investments to advance the BLM's mission of protecting these lands for multiple uses, including recreation, conservation, and safe and responsible energy development," Abbey said.

On Tuesday, Shantha Ready Alonso, the NCC Eco-Justice Programs' Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, urged the group's constituents to consider future generations and the importance of environmental conservation during this season of Lent.

"With a cross on my forehead, I've got future generations on my mind: What new life will be nurtured when I am gone?" Alonso wrote on the group's blog, referring to the traditional Lenten symbol of an ashen cross on the forehead.

"This question is particularly challenging when the literal dust that sheds from our everyday products carries toxic chemicals that are poisoning the Earth and getting into our bodies. Some chemicals even bio-accumulate, becoming more potent as they move up the food chain; or they are associated with chronic diseases, disabilities, or other health concerns," she continues. "This Lent, the National Council of Churches is asking seniors to commit to defend the generations ahead, and to ask peers to do the same."

The NLCS was created in 2000 under the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with the mission to "conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations." In 2009, the System was given permanent protection by the U.S. government, which also added 1.2 million acres to the system. The lands under the NLCS represent about 10 percent of the 258 million acres currently managed by the BLM.

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