Sonoma State University Professor Laura A. Watt told the House Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday that environmental reviews under the key National Environmental Policy Act can be valuable tools for preserving balance between wild and pastoral areas, such as those in the Point Reyes National Seashore Area. But its value hinges on the environmental reviews being applied accurately and consistently.
“I want to strongly advocate for the importance of environmental review, as it is often the only moment where we stop and, at very least, consider the impacts of our actions on the human and non-human worlds around us,” said Watt, a professor in SSU’s Geography, Environment and Planning Department and graduate coordinator of the university’s Cultural Resources Management Masters Program. “And yet I also want to advocate for the need for consistency in application of that review. It cannot scrutinize at one level here, and an entirely different one there. Its rigor — indeed, whether it is done at all — cannot merely turn on whether the lead agency ‘likes’ a project.”
Watt was one of four professionals who was invited to testify Wednesday during a hearing on "The Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare."
Watt noted that she is “concerned that some members of Congress might be looking for information that could be used to weaken environmental regulations and review.” She said, “As a life-long Democrat and dedicated environmental studies scholar, I would not want to contribute to such an effort.”
She said that in her experience studying the impacts of regulation and preservation battles over the Point Reyes National Seashore she has seen the problems and confusion that can arise when NEPA is not applied fairly and consistently. But by building on the insight of Aldo Leopold, considered by many to be the father of the U.S. wilderness system, “and recognizing that the wild and the pastoral can not only coexist but also strengthen each other, Point Reyes could be a powerful model of this evolving stewardship approach,” Watt said.
Watt is author of “The Paradox of Preservation: Wilderness and Working Landscapes at Point Reyes National Seashore” published in 2017. She will be speaking on Friday, April 27 at noon at the Sonoma State Library, Room 3001, as part of the BookTalks Lecture Series. The top of her discussion will be “how National Park Service management policies and processes for land use and protection do not always reflect the needs and values of local residents.”
For more information, contact Paul Gullixson, Associate Vice President Strategic Communications for Sonoma State University at (707) 664-2122 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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