Continuing the promise to use his authority to protect America's public lands and wild places, President Obama has announced his intent to set aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness -- the highest level of protection the country can bestow on an area. The designation will protect the area and its endangered wildlife from encroaching development.
The move represents the latest instance of Obama's use of his executive authority to protect public lands. During his presidency, President Obama has designated 13 national monuments -- several of which Environment America was instrumental in building support for. Of course, the decision has angered many in Congress, who, as in most other environmental actions the president has taken, have pledged to fight tooth and nail to quash. While only Congress can create a wilderness area, once the federal government identifies a place for that designation, it receives the highest level of protection until Congress acts or a future administration adopts a different approach.